A test of the Australian Weed Risk Assessment system in China.
The Australian Weed Risk Assessment system (AWRA) is an effective pre-border weed-screening tool that has played an active role in preventing the introduction of alien weeds into Australia and has been utilized in several other countries worldwide. Here, we selected 131 species of naturalized exotic plants (including 76 species of given non-weeds and 55 species of given weeds) to evaluate the AWRA in China for the first time. The AWRA performed better for discriminating major weeds than non-weeds and minor weeds, as it correctly rejected 84% of major weeds and did not wrongly accept a major weed. Among non-weeds, 76% were correctly classified with the final outcome of "accept" and 7.9% were wrongly rejected by the AWRA. This system correctly rejected 56% of minor weeds but accepted only 2.8% of minor weeds. The remaining 23% of all alien plants tested were classified as "evaluate further" by the AWRA. The area under the ROC curve (AUC) was 0.944, suggesting that the AWRA would be highly efficient at discriminating alien plants in China. In addition, we compared the scores of seven attributes of the AWRA between prior plant categories and analyzed their correlation with weed status. The average score for each attribute differed significantly between the two prior categories (weed and non-weed), but the average scores of the attribute "undesirable traits" did not significantly differ between any two of the three categories (non-weeds, minor weeds, and major weeds). There was a significant positive correlation between the scores of each attribute of the AWRA and weed status. The correlation coefficient for "dispersal mechanisms" and weed status was the highest and that for "undesirable traits" was the lowest. We believe that the AWRA can serve as an important weed-screening tool for plant introduction management in China.