Different traits determine introduction, naturalization and invasion success in woody plants : proteaceae as a test case
Publication of this article was funded by the Stellenbosch University Open Access Fund.
The original publication is available at http://www.plosone.org/
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.