Invasive Species Compendium

Detailed coverage of invasive species threatening livelihoods and the environment worldwide

Abstract

Deconstructing the native-exotic richness relationship in plants.

Abstract

Aim: Classic theory suggests that species-rich communities should be more resistant to the establishment of exotic species than species-poor communities. Although this theory predicts that exotic species should be less diverse in regions that contain more native species, macroecological analyses often find that the correlation between exotic and native species richness is positive rather than negative. To reconcile results with theory, we explore to what extent climatic conditions, landscape heterogeneity and anthropogenic disturbance may explain the positive relationship between native and exotic plant richness. Location: Catalonia (western Mediterranean region). Methods: We integrated floristic records and GIS-based environmental measures to make spatially explicit 10-km grid cells. We asked whether the observed positive relationship between native and exotic plant richness (R2=0.11) resulted from the addition of several negative correlations corresponding to different environmental conditions identified with cluster analysis. Moreover, we directly quantified the importance of common causal effects with a structural equation modelling framework. Results: We found no evidence that the relationship between native and exotic plant richness was negative when the comparison was made within environmentally homogeneous groups. Although there were common factors explaining both native and exotic richness, mainly associated with landscape heterogeneity and human pressure, these factors only explained 17.2% of the total correlation. Nevertheless, when the comparison was restricted to native plants associated with human-disturbed (i.e. ruderal) ecosystems, the relationship was stronger (R2=0.52) and the fraction explained by common factors increased substantially (58.3%). Main conclusions: While our results confirm that the positive correlation between exotic and native plant richness is in part explained by common extrinsic factors, they also highlight the great importance of anthropic factors that - by reducing biotic resistance - facilitate the establishment and spread of both exotic and native plants that tolerate disturbed environments.