Biological invasion on an oceanic island mountain: Do alien plant species have wider ecological ranges than native species?

Authors

  • Kanehiro Kitayama,

    1. Department of Botany, University of Hawai'i, 3190 Maile Way #101, Honolulu, Hawai'i 96822, USA;
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      The Japanese Forestry and Forest Products Research Institute, P.O. Box 16, Tsukuba Norin. Kenkyu Danchi, Ibaraki 305, Japan; Tel. +81 298 73 3211; Fax +81 298 74 3720

  • Dieter Mueller-Dombois

    1. Department of Botany, University of Hawai'i, 3190 Maile Way #101, Honolulu, Hawai'i 96822, USA;
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Abstract

Abstract. Spatial distribution patterns of alien plant species were compared with those of native species on a windward slope of Mt. Haleakala (3055 m). Oceanic islands are considered susceptible to biological invasion, and this study numerically tested this circumstantial evidence with the following questions: Are all habitats equally susceptible; and, do successful invaders have wider realized niches than natives? The mountain slope consists of three distinct altitudinal bioclimatic zones (hot moist lowland, wet montane cloud, and cool arid high-altitude zones). Ordination indicated that alien species' ranges and population expansions were clustered in the lowland and high-altitude zones. The lowland zone had been subjected to natural canopy dieback, and the high-altitude zone to grazing by domestic and feral ungulates. By contrast, the montane cloud forest was relatively intact in terms of number and cover of native species. Thus, susceptibility to alien invasion clearly differed among zones, and the primary causes seemed to be the obvious disturbance factors. The mean ecological range along the altitude-rainfall gradient was significantly (P < 0.05) greater for native than for alien species in most life-form groups. The reasons for the greater number of climate generalists among the natives vs. the range-restricted aliens appear to be related to: (1) the pre-alien condition with a depauperate flora which allowed for ‘ecological release’ of successful native colonizers, and (2) the climatic pre-adaptation of alien invaders which restricts them from penetrating over a broader spectrum of climatic zones in a floristic matrix subjected to increasing interspecific competition.

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