Invasive plants in conservation linkages: a conceptual model that addresses an underappreciated conservation issue


M. L. Wilkerson, Dept of Plant Sciences, One Shields Avenue, Univ. of California, Davis, CA 95616, USA. E-mail:


Conservationists have frequently touted the merits of increased landscape connectivity, usually focusing on the efficacy of conservation linkages (corridors) for maintaining viable populations of target species. An often-mentioned, but still greatly understudied, concern is that increased landscape connectivity via linkages may also aid the movement of undesired species. This paper provides conceptual guidance for research on one major aspect of this gap: invasive plants in conservation linkages. To guide research goals and methods, I develop a conceptual model describing eight interaction types between invasive plants and linkages, i.e. the ways that invasive plants can exist in and move into, through, and out of conservation linkages. Each interaction type within the model has three main components: linkage, matrix, and focal species. I discuss several aspects of these components, including a) differentiating among matrix types, b) understanding edge effects within the linkages, and c) incorporating relevant invasive species’ ecology (primarily dispersal ecology). Spatially-explicit documentation of invasive plant distribution is essential to understanding these interactions. By focusing on landscape-scale patterns in real-world systems, this model will enhance landscape-level knowledge of invasion ecology and aid land managers in identifying and prioritizing research and management decisions regarding invasive plants in conservation linkages.