A Source Area Approach Demonstrates Moderate Predictive Ability but Pronounced Variability of Invasive Species Traits.
ABSTRACT: The search for traits that make alien species invasive has mostly concentrated on comparing successful invaders and different comparison groups with respect to average trait values. By contrast, little attention has been paid to trait variability among invaders. Here, we combine an analysis of trait differences between invasive and non-invasive species with a comparison of multidimensional trait variability within these two species groups. We collected data on biological and distributional traits for 1402 species of the native, non-woody vascular plant flora of Austria. We then compared the subsets of species recorded and not recorded as invasive aliens anywhere in the world, respectively, first, with respect to the sampled traits using univariate and multiple regression models; and, second, with respect to their multidimensional trait diversity by calculating functional richness and dispersion metrics. Attributes related to competitiveness (strategy type, nitrogen indicator value), habitat use (agricultural and ruderal habitats, occurrence under the montane belt), and propagule pressure (frequency) were most closely associated with invasiveness. However, even the best multiple model, including interactions, only explained a moderate fraction of the differences in invasive success. In addition, multidimensional variability in trait space was even larger among invasive than among non-invasive species. This pronounced variability suggests that invasive success has a considerable idiosyncratic component and is probably highly context specific. We conclude that basing risk assessment protocols on species trait profiles will probably face hardly reducible uncertainties.
Project description:The question of why some introduced species become invasive and others do not is the central puzzle of invasion biology. Two of the principal explanations for this phenomenon concern functional traits: invasive species may have higher values of competitively advantageous traits than non-invasive species, or they may have greater phenotypic plasticity in traits that permits them to survive the colonization period and spread to a broad range of environments. Although there is a large body of evidence for superiority in particular traits among invasive plants, when compared to phylogenetically related non-invasive plants, it is less clear if invasive plants are more phenotypically plastic, and whether this plasticity confers a fitness advantage. In this study, I used a model group of 10 closely related Pinus species whose invader or non-invader status has been reliably characterized to test the relative contribution of high trait values and high trait plasticity to relative growth rate, a performance measure standing in as a proxy for fitness. When grown at higher nitrogen supply, invaders had a plastic RGR response, increasing their RGR to a much greater extent than non-invaders. However, invasive species did not exhibit significantly more phenotypic plasticity than non-invasive species for any of 17 functional traits, and trait plasticity indices were generally weakly correlated with RGR. Conversely, invasive species had higher values than non-invaders for 13 of the 17 traits, including higher leaf area ratio, photosynthetic capacity, photosynthetic nutrient-use efficiency, and nutrient uptake rates, and these traits were also strongly correlated with performance. I conclude that, in responding to higher N supply, superior trait values coupled with a moderate degree of trait variation explain invasive species' superior performance better than plasticity per se.
Project description:Species invasions constitute a major and poorly understood threat to plant-pollinator systems. General theory predicting which factors drive species invasion success and subsequent effects on native ecosystems is particularly lacking. We address this problem using a consumer-resource model of adaptive behavior and population dynamics to evaluate the invasion success of alien pollinators into plant-pollinator networks and their impact on native species. We introduce pollinator species with different foraging traits into network models with different levels of species richness, connectance, and nestedness. Among 31 factors tested, including network and alien properties, we find that aliens with high foraging efficiency are the most successful invaders. Networks exhibiting high alien-native diet overlap, fraction of alien-visited plant species, most-generalist plant connectivity, and number of specialist pollinator species are the most impacted by invaders. Our results mimic several disparate observations conducted in the field and potentially elucidate the mechanisms responsible for their variability.
Project description:Recent studies have concluded that native and invasive species share a common set of trait relationships. However, native species in isolated regions might be functionally constrained by their unique evolutionary histories such that they follow different carbon capture strategies than introduced species. We compared leaf traits relating to resource investment, carbon return, and resource-use efficiency in 16 native (endemic) and three non-native (invasive) species in a temperate forest in Canterbury, South Island, New Zealand. Trait differences were more closely associated with leaf habit than nativity. Deciduous species (including invaders) exhibited greater maximum photosynthetic rates at similar resource costs, which resulted in greater nitrogen- and energy-use efficiencies than evergreen natives. Leaf area was the only trait that differed significantly by nativity (over two-fold larger in invaders). Invaders and deciduous natives both occupied the 'fast return' end of the leaf economics spectrum in contrast to the native evergreens which had comparatively slow return on investment. Dominant woody invaders in this forest are physiologically distinct from many New Zealand endemic species, which are overwhelmingly evergreen. It remains unclear whether these trait differences translate to an ecological divergence in plant strategy, but these results suggest that ecophysiological tradeoffs are likely constrained by biogeography.
Project description:Invasive alien species are driving global biodiversity loss, compromising ecosystem function and service provision, and human, animal and plant health. Habitat characteristics and geographical origin may predict invasion success, and in aquatic environments could be mediated principally by salinity tolerance. Crustacean invaders are causing global problems and we urgently require better predictive power of their invasiveness. Here, we compiled global aquatic gammarid (Crustacea: Amphipoda: Gammaroidea) diversity and examined their salinity tolerances and regions of origin to test whether these factors predict invasion success. Across 918 aquatic species within this superfamily, relatively few gammarids (n = 27, 3%) were reported as aliens, despite extensive invasion opportunities and high numbers of published studies on amphipod invasions. However, reported alien species were disproportionately salt-tolerant (i.e. 32% of brackish-water species), with significantly lower proportions of aliens originating from freshwater and marine environments (both 1%). Alien gammarids also significantly disproportionally originated from the Ponto-Caspian (20% of these taxa) when compared with all 'other' grouped regions (1%), and principally invaded Eurasian waters, with translocations of salt-tolerant taxa to freshwaters being pervasive. This suggests habitat characteristics, alongside regional contexts, help predict invasibility. In particular, broad environmental tolerances to harsh environments and associated evolutionary history probably promote success of aliens globally.
Project description: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.
Project description:The reasons why the range size of closely related species often varies significantly have intrigued scientists for many years. Among other hypotheses, species with high trait variation were suggested to occupy more diverse environments, have more continuity in their distributions, and consequently have larger range sizes. Here, using 34 tree species of lowlands tropical rainforest in southern Costa Rica, we explored whether inherent trait variability expressed at the local scale in functional traits is related to the species' total geographical range size. We formed 17 congeneric pairs of one narrow endemic and one widespread species, sampled 335 individuals and measured eight functional traits: leaf area, leaf thickness, leaf dry matter content, specific leaf area, leaf nitrogen content, leaf phosphorus content, leaf nitrogen to phosphorus ratio, and wood specific gravity. We tested whether there are significant differences in the locally expressed variation of individual traits or in multidimensional trait variance between the species in congeneric pairs and whether species' range size could hence be predicted from local trait variability. However, we could not find such differences between widely distributed and narrow range species. We discuss the possible reasons for these findings including the fact that higher trait variability of widespread species may result from successive local adaptations during range expansion and may hence often be an effect rather than the cause of larger ranges.
Project description:Predicting the invasive potential of introduced species remains an ongoing challenge due to the multiple interacting regional and global processes that facilitate the introduction and proliferation of alien species. This may be particularly true in regions where native species are increasingly reported as expanding and impacting ecosystems in ways indistinguishable from alien ones. Current approaches to assess the invasive potential of plants may be limited by the choice of traits used and the exclusion of native species. To overcome these limitations, we develop a novel approach that focuses on all species-native and alien-within a functional group of plants to predict their proliferation status. Our approach relied on the development of an extensive database of extrinsic and intrinsic traits for Puerto Rican vines with the goal of generating a predictive model of vine proliferation status. We test three hypotheses linking origin, extrinsic and intrinsic traits, and proliferation status. We found that the origin of proliferating vines was associated with only one out of seven traits, namely plant use. We also found that proliferation status was associated with all but two traits, namely life span and climbing mechanism. Finally, a classification tree analysis identified five variables as good predictors of proliferation status and used them to split the species into six groups characterized by a unique suite of traits, three of them included proliferating species. The development of tools to identify potential proliferating species is critical for management and conservation purposes. Tools that can minimize biases and make predictions based on trait data easily obtainable are particularly needed in regions with a high taxonomic and functional diversity, and with limited ecological knowledge of individual species. In addition, these tools should be capable of incorporating native species since an increasing number of native species are behaving like invasive aliens.
Project description:Differences in morphological or ecological traits expressed by exotic species between their native and non-native ranges are often interpreted as evidence for adaptation to new conditions in the non-native ranges. In turn this adaptation is often hypothesized to contribute to the successful invasion of these species. There is good evidence for rapid evolution by many exotic invasives, but the extent to which these evolutionary changes actually drive invasiveness is unclear. One approach to resolving the relationship between adaptive responses and successful invasion is to compare traits between populations from the native and non-native ranges for both exotic invaders and congeners that are exotic but not invasive. We compared a suite of morphological traits that are commonly tested in the literature in the context of invasion for three very closely related species of Centaurea, all of which are sympatric in the same native and non-native ranges in Europe and North America. Of these, C. solstitialis is highly invasive whereas C. calcitrapa and C. sulphurea are not. For all three species, plants from non-native populations showed similar shifts in key traits that have been identified in other studies as important putative adaptive responses to post-introduction invasion. For example, for all three species plants from populations in non-native ranges were (i) larger and (ii) produced seeds that germinated at higher rates. In fact, the non-invasive C. calcitrapa showed the strongest trait shift between ranges. Centaurea solstitialis was the only species for which plants from the non-native range increased allocation to defensive spines, and allocated proportionally less resources to reproduction, patterns contrary to what would be predicted by theory and other empirical studies to enhance invasion. Our results suggest caution when interpreting the commonly observed increase in size and reproductive capacity as factors that cause exotics to become invaders.
Project description:A major aim of invasion ecology is to identify characteristics of successful invaders. However, most plant groups studied in detail (e.g. pines and acacias) have a high percentage of invasive taxa. Here we examine the global introduction history and invasion ecology of Proteaceae--a large plant family with many taxa that have been widely disseminated by humans, but with few known invaders. To do this we compiled a global list of species and used boosted regression tree models to assess which factors are important in determining the status of a species (not introduced, introduced, naturalized or invasive). At least 402 of 1674 known species (24%) have been moved by humans out of their native ranges, 58 species (14%) have become naturalized but not invasive, and 8 species (2%) are invasive. The probability of naturalization was greatest for species with large native ranges, low susceptibility to Phytophthora root-rot fungus, large mammal-dispersed seeds, and with the capacity to resprout. The probability of naturalized species becoming invasive was greatest for species with large native ranges, those used as barrier plants, tall species, species with small seeds, and serotinous species. The traits driving invasiveness of Proteaceae were similar to those for acacias and pines. However, while some traits showed a consistent influence at introduction, naturalization and invasion, others appear to be influential at one stage only, and some have contrasting effects at different stages. Trait-based analyses therefore need to consider different invasion stages separately. On their own, these observations provide little predictive power for risk assessment, but when the causative mechanisms are understood (e.g. Phytophthora susceptibility) they provide valuable insights. As such there is considerable value in seeking the correlates and mechanisms underlying invasions for particular taxonomic or functional groups.
Project description:Several invasion hypotheses predict a positive association between phylogenetic and functional distinctiveness of aliens and their performance, leading to the idea that distinct aliens compete less with their resident communities. However, synthetic pattern relationships between distinctiveness and alien performance and direct tests of competition as the driving mechanism have not been forthcoming. This is likely because different patterns are observed at different spatial grains, because functional trait and phylogenetic information are often incomplete, and because of the need for competition experiments that measure demographic responses across a variety of alien species that vary in their distinctiveness. We conduct a competitor removal experiment and parameterize matrix population and integral projection models for 14 alien plant species. More novel aliens compete less strongly with co-occurring species in their community, but these results dissipate at a larger spatial grain of investigation. Further, we find that functional traits used in conjunction with phylogeny improve our ability to explain competitive responses. Our investigation shows that competition is an important mechanism underlying the differential success of alien species.