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Exploring species attributes and site characteristics to assess plant invasions in Spain

Authors


*Correspondence, Núria Gassó, CREAF (Centre for Ecological Research and Forestry Applications), Edifici C, Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona, E-08193 Bellaterra, Catalonia, Spain. Tel.: +34935813345; Fax: +34935814151; E-mail: n.gasso@creaf.uab.es

ABSTRACT

Aim  Biological invasions are a major component of global change with increasing effects on natural ecosystems and human societies. Here, we aim to assess the relationship between plant invader species attributes and the extent of their distribution range size, at the same time that we assess the association between environmental factors and plant invader species richness.

Location  Spain, Mediterranean region.

Methods  From the species perspective, we calculated the distribution range size of the 106 vascular plant invaders listed in a recently published atlas of alien plant species in Spain. Range size was used as an estimation of the degree of invasion success of the species. To model variation in range size between species as a function of a set of species attributes, we adopted the framework of the generalized linear mixed models because they allow the incorporation of taxonomic categories as nested random factors to control for phylogenetic relationships. From the invaded site perspective, we determined invader plant species richness as the number of species for each 10 × 10 km Universal Transverse Mercator (UTM) grid. For each grid cell, we estimated variables concerning landscape, topography, climate and human settlement. Then, we performed a generalized linear mixed model incorporating a defined spatial correlation structure to assess the relationship between plant invader richness and the environmental predictors.

Results  From the species perspective, wind dispersal and minimum residence time appeared to favour invasion success. From the invaded site perspective, we identified high anthropogenic disturbance, low altitude, short distance to the coastline and dry, hot weather as the main correlates to UTM grid cell invader richness.

Main conclusions  According to these results, an increasing importance of man-modified ecosystems and global warming in the Mediterranean region should facilitate the expansion of plant invaders, especially wind-dispersed species, leading to the accumulation of invasive species in some sites (i.e. invasion hot spots).

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