Relative roles of climatic suitability and anthropogenic influence in determining the pattern of spread in a global invader
Because invasive species threaten the integrity of natural ecosystems, a major goal in ecology is to develop predictive models to determine which species may become widespread and where they may invade. Indeed, considerable progress has been made in understanding the factors that influence the local pattern of spread for specific invaders and the factors that are correlated with the number of introduced species that have become established in a given region. However, few studies have examined the relative importance of multiple drivers of invasion success for widespread species at global scales. Here, we use a dataset of >5,000 presence/absence records to examine the interplay between climatic suitability, biotic resistance by native taxa, human-aided dispersal, and human modification of habitats, in shaping the distribution of one of the world's most notorious invasive species, the Argentine ant (Linepithema humile). Climatic suitability and the extent of human modification of habitats are primarily responsible for the distribution of this global invader. However, we also found some evidence for biotic resistance by native communities. Somewhat surprisingly, and despite the often cited importance of propagule pressure as a crucial driver of invasions, metrics of the magnitude of international traded commodities among countries were not related to global distribution patterns. Together, our analyses on the global-scale distribution of this invasive species provide strong evidence for the interplay of biotic and abiotic determinants of spread and also highlight the challenges of limiting the spread and subsequent impact of highly invasive species.