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Keywords:

  • Biological invasions;
  • invasive alien species;
  • non-native plants;
  • predictive screening tools

ABSTRACT

The ecological and economic advantages of preventing introduction of species likely to become invasive have increased interest in implementing effective screening tools. We compared the accuracy of the Australian Weed Risk Assessment (WRA) system with that across the six geographies in which it has been tested (New Zealand, Hawaii, Hawaii and Pacific Islands, Czech Republic, Bonin Islands and Florida). Inclusion in four of the tests of a secondary screening tool, developed to reduce the number of species requiring further evaluation, decreased the number of species with that outcome by over 60% on average. Averaging across all tests demonstrated that the WRA system accurately identified major invaders 90%, and non-invaders 70%, of the time. Examined differently, a species of unknown invasive potential is on average likely to be correctly accepted or rejected over 80% of the time for all of these geographies when minor invaders are categorized as invasive. Whereas increasing consistency in definitions and implementation would facilitate understanding of the general application of the WRA system, we believe that this tool functions similarly across islands and continents in tropical and temperate climates and has been sufficiently tested to be adopted as an initial screen for plant species proposed for introduction to a new geography.