Predicting invasiveness of exotic woody species using a traits-based framework.
Identifying potentially invasive species and preventing their introduction and establishment are of critical importance in invasion ecology and land management. Although an extensive body of research has been dedicated to identifying traits that confer invasiveness, our current knowledge is still often inconclusive due to limitations in geographic extent and/or scope of traits analyzed. Here, using a comprehensive set of 45 traits, we performed a case study of invasive traits displayed by exotic woody plants in the United States (U.S.) by comparing 63 invasive and 794 non-invasive exotic woody plant species naturalized across the country. We found that invasive woody species often bear the following two key traits: vegetative reproduction and long-distance seed dispersal (via water, birds or mammals). Boosted classification tree models based on these traits accurately predicted species invasiveness (86% accuracy on average). Presented findings provide a generalized understanding of the relative importance of functional traits in identifying potentially invasive woody species in the U.S. The knowledge generated in this study can be used to improve current classification systems of non-native woody plants used by various U.S. governmental agencies and land managers.