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Keywords:

  • Biological invasions;
  • dispersal modes;
  • invasive species;
  • management;
  • natural experiment;
  • reasons for introduction;
  • shrub invasions;
  • tree invasions

Abstract

Aim  Woody plants were not widely considered to be important invasive alien species until fairly recently. Thousands of species of trees and shrubs have, however, been moved around the world. Many species have spread from planting sites, and some are now among the most widespread and damaging of invasive organisms. This article presents a global list of invasive alien trees and shrubs. It discusses taxonomic biases, geographical patterns, modes of dispersal, reasons for introductions and key issues regarding invasions of non-native woody plants around the world.

Location  Global.

Methods  An exhaustive survey was made of regional and national databases and the literature. Correspondence with botanists and ecologists and our own observations in many parts of the world expanded the list. Presence of invasive species was determined for each of 15 broad geographical regions. The main reasons for introduction and dissemination were determined for each species.

Results  The list comprises 622 species (357 trees, 265 shrubs in 29 plant orders, 78 families, 286 genera). Regions with the largest number of woody invasive alien species are: Australia (183); southern Africa (170); North America (163); Pacific Islands (147); and New Zealand (107). Species introduced for horticulture dominated the list (62% of species: 196 trees and 187 shrubs). The next most important reasons for introduction and dissemination were forestry (13%), food (10%) and agroforestry (7%). Three hundred and twenty-three species (52%) are currently known to be invasive in only one region, and another 126 (20%) occur in only two regions. Only 38 species (6%) are very widespread (invasive in six or more regions). Over 40% of invasive tree species and over 60% of invasive shrub species are bird dispersed.

Main conclusions  Only between 0.5% and 0.7% of the world’s tree and shrub species are currently invasive outside their natural range, but woody plant invasions are rapidly increasing in importance around the world. The objectively compiled list of invasive species presented here provides a snapshot of the current dimensions of the phenomenon and will be useful for screening new introductions for invasive potential.