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Biogeographical contrasts to assess local and regional patterns of invasion: a case study with two reciprocally introduced exotic maple trees


C. J. Lortie, Dept of Biology, York Univ., 4700 Keele Street, Toronto, ON M3J 1P3, Canada. E-mail:


Quantitative comparisons of distribution and abundance of exotic species in their native and non-native ranges represent a first step when studying invaders. However, this approach is rarely applied 2 particularly to tree species. Using biogeographical contrasts coupled with regional dispersal surveys, we assessed whether two exotic maple tree species, Acer negundo and Acer platanoides, can be classified as invasive in the non-native regions surveyed. We also examined the importance of biogeography in determining the degree of invasion by exotic species using this reciprocal approach. Local-scale surveys were conducted in a total of 34 forests to compare density, relative abundance, age structure of native and introduced populations, and whether the two introduced maple species negatively affected native tree species density. Regional-scale surveys of a total of 136 forests were then conducted to assess distribution in the introduced regions. Introduced populations of A. negundo were denser than populations measured in their native range and negatively related to native tree species density. Age structure did not differ between regions for this species. At the regional scale, this species has invaded most of the riparian corridors sampled in France. Conversely, the density of A. platanoides introduced populations was similar to that of native populations and was not related to native tree species density. Although seedling recruitment was higher away than at home, this species has invaded only 9% of the forests sampled in southern Ontario, Canada. Although reported invasive, these two exotic maple species differed in their relative demographic parameters and regional spread. Acer negundo is currently invasive in southern France while A. platanoides is not aggressively invasive in southern Ontario. Importantly, this study effectively demonstrates that biogeography through structured contrasts provide a direct means to infer invasion of exotic species.

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