Predicting weed distribution at the regional scale in the native range: environmental determinants and biocontrol implications of Phyla nodiflora (Verbenaceae).
Alien plants produce severe environmental and economic losses in the territories they invade. Modelling the spatial distribution of alien species as a function of the environment in the native range has therefore become an essential first step in the struggle against invasions. Phyla nodiflora var. minor is a fast-growing perennial herb native to South America that has spread through three continents, where it poses a major threat to biodiversity and significantly impacts on conservation and grazing systems, mainly in riparian areas. To assess the distribution of native Argentine populations of P. nodiflora as a function of the environment, we conducted long-term roadside surveys and associated the occurrence of the plant with climatic, geographical, demographical and vegetation cover variables in a generalised linear mixed model. The plant was recorded in 230 of 431 sites, mostly east of 66°W and north of 39°S. According to the best model, which predicted the data 58% better than random assignment, its occurrence was associated with temperature variables (mean annual values and daytime range) and relative humidity. Based on these associations, we generated a presence probability map for the occurrence of P. nodiflora in southern South America. Understanding the environmental determinants of the distribution of weeds in their native range provides valuable baseline data to further manage the spread of alien species.