Biological Invasions (2013) 15, 1417-1429

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Bethany A. Bradley (2013)
Distribution models of invasive plants over-estimate potential impact
Biological Invasions 15 (7), 1417-1429
Abstract: Habitat suitability models developed for non-native, invasive species often implicitly assume that projected invasion risk equates to risk of impact. I aim to test to what extent this assumption is true by comparing commonly-used invasive plant distribution datasets to abundance records. I compared herbarium occurrence records (downloaded from an online database) and regional occurrence records (compiled from individual states) to abundance estimates collected from over 300 invasive plant experts for 9 invasive species in the western U.S. I also created habitat suitability models (HSMs) using these datasets and compared the areas of predicted suitability. Sixty percent of the time, herbarium occurrences were located in regions where the species was rare enough to be undetected by experts, while only 26 % coincided with locations identified as having high abundance. Regional occurrences were located in areas where the species was not detected 32 % of the time, and on high abundance 42 % of the time. HSMs based on herbarium records encompassed 89 % of land area at risk of abundance, but overestimated the area of estimated risk (27-46 % false positive rate). HSMs based on regional occurrences had a smaller false positive rate (22-31 %), but encompassed only 67-68 % of area suitable for abundance. Herbarium records are strongly skewed towards locations with low invasive plant abundance, leading to invasion risk models that vastly overestimate abundance risk. Models based on occurrence points should be interpreted as risk of establishment only, not risk of abundance or impact. If HSMs aim to be more management relevant, invasion risk models should include abundance as well as occurrence.
(The abstract is excluded from the Creative Commons licence and has been copied with permission by the publisher.)
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Database assignments for author(s): Bethany A. Bradley

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population dynamics/ epidemiology

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