Question Are the patterns of alien conifer (Pinaceae, Cupressaceae) invasions different between continents, and how is invasion success influenced by commercial forestry practices?
Location Temperate and subtropical countries and regions (n = 60) from five continents spanning both hemispheres.
Methods We used generalized linear mixed models to test how continent identity, region area and use in commercial forestry affect probabilities of Pinaceae and Cupressaceae species to escape following introduction and cumulative logit regression models to assess how these predictors affect the likelihood that a species becomes naturalized or invasive.
Results Sixty Pinaceae of a global total of 232 and 26 Cupressaceae of a total of 142 species have escaped from cultivation across the study regions examined. Average numbers of both alien Pinaceae and Cupressaceae species per region were highest in Oceania, followed by Africa. Moreover, the probability of alien Cupressaceae and Pinaceae becoming naturalized or invasive was particularly high in these two continents. For both families, species used in commercial forestry have a significantly higher probability of escape than those which are only introduced for ornamental or other purposes. In the case of Pinaceae, forestry species also become naturalized or invasive more frequently than non-forestry species, while no such effect was detectable for Cupressaceae.
Conclusions We found that non-native conifers are more likely to escape from cultivation, naturalize and turn into invasive weeds on the continents of the Southern Hemisphere. In addition to this biogeographic signal, introduction effort strongly determines the behaviour of introduced Pinaceae, and less so, Cupressaceae. A clear conflict exists between the economic benefits of conifer forestry and the risks to the environment from invasions. Future expansion of commercial forestry should address spatial planning to ecosystems vulnerable to invasion and adopt comprehensive risk assessment procedures.