Climatic niche conservatism and biogeographical non-equilibrium in Eschscholzia californica (Papaveraceae), an invasive plant in the Chilean Mediterranean region.
Species climate requirements are useful for predicting their geographic distribution. It is often assumed that the niche requirements for invasive plants are conserved during invasion, especially when the invaded regions share similar climate conditions. California and central Chile have a remarkable degree of convergence in their vegetation structure, and a similar Mediterranean climate. Such similarities make these geographic areas an interesting natural experiment for testing climatic niche dynamics and the equilibrium of invasive species in a new environment. We tested to see if the climatic niche of Eschscholzia californica is conserved in the invaded range (central Chile), and we assessed whether the invasion process has reached a biogeographical equilibrium, i.e., occupy all the suitable geographic locations that have suitable conditions under native niche requirements. We compared the climatic niche in the native and invaded ranges as well as the projected potential geographic distribution in the invaded range. In order to compare climatic niches, we conducted a Principal Component Analysis (PCA) and Species Distribution Models (SDMs), to estimate E. californica's potential geographic distribution. We also used SDMs to predict altitudinal distribution limits in central Chile. Our results indicated that the climatic niche occupied by E. californica in the invaded range is firmly conserved, occupying a subset of the native climatic niche but leaving a substantial fraction of it unfilled. Comparisons of projected SDMs for central Chile indicate a similarity, yet the projection from native range predicted a larger geographic distribution in central Chile compared to the prediction of the model constructed for central Chile. The projected niche occupancy profile from California predicted a higher mean elevation than that projected from central Chile. We concluded that the invasion process of E. californica in central Chile is consistent with climatic niche conservatism but there is potential for further expansion in Chile.