Aim Understanding the factors determining the transition from introduction of aliens to the establishment of invasive populations is a critical issue of the study of biological invasions, and has key implications for management. Differences in fitness among areas of introduction can define the zones where aliens become invasive. The American slider turtle Trachemys scripta has been introduced worldwide, and has negative effects on freshwater communities, but only a subset of introduced populations breed successfully. We used species distribution models to assess the factors influencing the slider distribution in Italy, by analysing bioclimatic features that can cause the transition from presence of feral adults to breeding populations. We also evaluated whether climate change might increase the future suitability for reproduction.
Location Central and Northern Italy.
Methods The distribution of slider turtle was obtained from the literature, unpublished reports and field surveys. We used Maxent to build bioclimatic models.
Results Reproductive populations are associated to a clear bioclimatic envelope with warmer climate, more solar radiation and higher precipitations than populations where reproduction is not observed. Several Mediterranean areas currently have climatic features suitable for sliders. Scenarios of climate change predict the expansion of these areas. In the near future (2020), the proportion of populations in areas suitable for reproduction will dramatically increase.
Main conclusion Our study shows that bioclimatic differences can determine the areas where aliens become invaders. Management should be focused to these source areas. However, climate change can increase fitness in the future, and therefore the interactions between climate change and fitness can boost the invasiveness of this alien species.