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Keywords:

  • Biological invasions;
  • CORINE land cover;
  • EUNIS habitat classification;
  • habitat type;
  • non-native species;
  • risk assessment

ABSTRACT

Aim  Recent studies using vegetation plots have demonstrated that habitat type is a good predictor of the level of plant invasion, expressed as the proportion of alien to all species. At local scale, habitat types explain the level of invasion much better than alien propagule pressure. Moreover, it has been shown that patterns of habitat invasion are consistent among European regions with contrasting climates, biogeography, history and socioeconomic background. Here we use these findings as a basis for mapping the level of plant invasion in Europe.

Location  European Union and some adjacent countries.

Methods  We used 52,480 vegetation plots from Catalonia (NE Spain), Czech Republic and Great Britain to quantify the levels of invasion by neophytes (alien plant species introduced after ad 1500) in 33 habitat types. Then we estimated the proportion of each of these habitat types in CORINE land-cover classes and calculated the level of invasion for each class. We projected the levels of invasion on the CORINE land-cover map of Europe, extrapolating Catalonian data to the Mediterranean bioregion, Czech data to the Continental bioregion, British data to the British Isles and combined Czech–British data to the Atlantic and Boreal bioregions.

Results  The highest levels of invasion were predicted for agricultural, urban and industrial land-cover classes, low levels for natural and semi-natural grasslands and most woodlands, and the lowest levels for sclerophyllous vegetation, heathlands and peatlands. The resulting map of the level of invasion reflected the distribution of these land-cover classes across Europe.

Main conclusions  High level of invasion is predicted in lowland areas of the temperate zone of western and central Europe and low level in the boreal zone and mountain regions across the continent. Low level of invasion is also predicted in the Mediterranean region except its coastline, river corridors and areas with irrigated agricultural land.