Abundance and dispersion of the invasive Mediterranean annual, Centaurea melitensis in its native and non-native ranges.
In general, invasive plants are assumed to behave more aggressively in their invasive ranges than in their native range, and studies of the mechanisms of invasion often assume these differences. However, comparisons of abundances between native and invasive ranges are rarely carried out. We compared density and dispersion of the invasive plant, Centaurea melitensis (Asteraceae) in its native range and two invasive ranges of similar mediterranean-climate type. The objective was to quantify the differences in its abundance among three distant regions. We surveyed six sites in the native range (Spain) and in each of two invaded ranges (California and central Chile) for population density, relative dominance and spatial distribution of Centaurea. Centaurea occurred at higher densities in invasive sites than in native ones, with a median of 100 plants per m2 and 70 plants per m2 in California and Chile, respectively, compared to only 4 plants per m2 in Spain. Centaurea was more dominant in both invasive ranges than in the native range. Centaurea density and relative dominance were highly variable within regions. Plants in Spain were randomly dispersed, while those in both invasive ranges were more aggregated. Annual precipitation and mean annual temperature were the best predictors of Centaurea density. In California sites, density was negatively correlated with soil nutrients. The presence of at least one high-density population with near total dominance in Spain suggests that there might be ecological mechanisms for invasiveness in Centuarea that are not unique to invaded ranges.