Patterns of alien plant distribution at multiple spatial scales in a large national park: implications for ecology, management and monitoring
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Aim Spatial scale is critical for understanding and managing biological invasions. In providing direction to managing alien plant invasions, much emphasis is placed on collecting spatially explicit data. However, insufficient thought is often given to how the data are to be used, frequently resulting in the incompatibility of the data for different uses. This paper explores the role of spatial scale in interpreting, managing and monitoring alien plant invasions in a large protected area. Location Kruger National Park, South Africa. Methods Using 27,000 spatially-explicit records of invasive alien plants for the Kruger National Park (> 20,000 km2) we assessed alien plant species richness per cell at nine different scales of resolution. Results When assessing the patterns of alien plants at the various scales of resolution, almost identical results are obtained when working at scales of quarter-degree grids and quaternary watersheds (the fourth level category in South Africa’s river basin classification system). Likewise, insights gained from working at resolutions of 0.1–0.5 km and 1–5 km are similar. At a scale of 0.1 x 0.1 km cells, only 0.4% of the Kruger National Park is invaded, whereas > 90% of the park is invaded when mapped at the quarter-degree cell resolution. Main conclusions Selecting the appropriate scale of resolution is crucial when evaluating the distribution and abundance of alien plant invasions, understanding ecological processes, and overationalizing management applications and monitoring strategies. Quarter-degree grids and quaternary watersheds are most useful at a regional or national scale. Grid cells of 1 to 25 km 2 are generally useful for establishing priorities for and planning management interventions. Fine-scale data are useful for informing management in areas which are small in extent; they also provide the detail appropriate for assessing patterns and rates of invasion.