Global predictors of alien plant establishment success: combining niche and trait proxies
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Biological invasions are on the rise globally. To reduce future invasions, it is imperative to determine the naturalization potential of species. Until now, screening approaches have relied largely on species-specific functional feature data. Such information is, however, time-consuming and expensive to collect, thwarting the screening of large numbers of potential invaders. We propose to resolve such data limitations by developing indicators of establishment success of alien species that can be readily derived from open-access databases. These indicators describe key features of successfully established aliens, including estimates of potential range size, niche overlap with human-disturbed environments, and proxies of species traits related to their palaeoinvasions and local dominance capacities. We demonstrate the utility of this new approach by applying it to two large and highly invasive plant groups: Australian acacias and eucalypts. Our results show that these indicators robustly predict establishment successes and failures in each clade independently, and that they can cross-predict establishment in these two clades. Interestingly, the indicator identified as most important was species potential range size on Earth, a variable too rarely considered as a predictor. By successfully identifying key features that predispose Australian plants to naturalize, we provide an objective and cost-effective protocol for flagging high-risk introductions.
- RESEARCH: Richardson D