Naturalization of introduced plants: ecological drivers of biogeographical patterns


  • David M. Richardson,

    Corresponding author
    1. Centre for Invasion Biology, Department of Botany and Zoology, Stellenbosch University, Matieland, South Africa
    • Author for correspondence:

      David M. Richardson

      Tel: +27 21 8083711


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  • Petr Pyšek

    1. Institute of Botany, Department of Invasion Ecology, Academy of Sciences of the Czech Republic, Průhonice, Czech Republic
    2. Department of Ecology, Faculty of Science, Charles University, Praha 2, Czech Republic
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II.The introduction–naturalization–invasion continuum for conceptualizing biological invasions384
III.The biogeographical background for studying naturalization: variation among populations and regions385
IV.Factors determining naturalization in plants388


The literature on biological invasions is biased in favour of invasive species – those that spread and often reach high abundance following introduction by humans. It is, however, also important to understand previous stages in the introduction–naturalization–invasion continuum (‘the continuum’), especially the factors that mediate naturalization. The emphasis on invasiveness is partly because most invasions are only recognized once species occupy large adventive ranges or start to spread. Also, many studies lump all alien species, and fail to separate introduced, naturalized and invasive populations and species. These biases impede our ability to elucidate the full suite of drivers of invasion and to predict invasion dynamics, because different factors mediate progression along different sections of the continuum. A better understanding of the determinants of naturalization is important because all naturalized species are potential invaders. Processes leading to naturalization act differently in different regions and global biogeographical patterns of plant invasions result from the interaction of population-biological, macroecological and human-induced factors. We explore what is known about how determinants of naturalization in plants interact at various scales, and how their importance varies along the continuum. Research that is explicitly linked to particular stages of the continuum can generate new information that is appropriate for improving the management of biological invasions if, for example, potentially invasive species are identified before they exert an impact.