Predicting incursion of plant invaders into Kruger National Park, South Africa : the interplay of general drivers and species-specific factors
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Background: Overcoming boundaries is crucial for incursion of alien plant species and their successful naturalization and invasion within protected areas. Previous work showed that in Kruger National Park, South Africa, this process can be quantified and that factors determining the incursion of invasive species can be identified and predicted confidently. Here we explore the similarity between determinants of incursions identified by the general model based on a multispecies assemblage, and those identified by species-specific models. We analyzed the presence and absence of six invasive plant species in 1.061.5 km segments along the border of the park as a function of environmental characteristics from outside and inside the KNP boundary, using two data-mining techniques: classification trees and random forests. Principal Findings: The occurrence of Ageratum houstonianum, Chromolaena odorata, Xanthium strumarium, Argemone ochroleuca, Opuntia stricta and Lantana camara can be reliably predicted based on landscape characteristics identified by the general multispecies model, namely water runoff from surrounding watersheds and road density in a 10 km radius. The presence of main rivers and species-specific combinations of vegetation types are reliable predictors from inside the park. Conclusions: The predictors from the outside and inside of the park are complementary, and are approximately equally reliable for explaining the presence/absence of current invaders; those from the inside are, however, more reliable for predicting future invasions. Landscape characteristics determined as crucial predictors from outside the KNP serve as guidelines for management to enact proactive interventions to manipulate landscape features near the KNP to prevent further incursions. Predictors from the inside the KNP can be used reliably to identify high-risk areas to improve the costeffectiveness of management, to locate invasive plants and target them for eradication.