Predicting the current and future distribution of the invasive weed Ageratina adenophora in the chitwan-annapurna landscape, Nepal.
With increasing globalization, trade, and human movement, the rate of alien species introduction has increased all around the globe. In addition, climate change is thought to exacerbate the situation by allowing range expansion of invasive species into new areas. Predicting the distribution of invasive species under conditions of climate change is important for identifying susceptible areas of invasion and developing strategies for limiting their expansion. We used Maxent modeling to predict the distribution of one of the world's most aggressive invasive weeds, Ageratina adenophora (Sprengel) R. King and H. Robinson, in the Chitwan-Annapurna Landscape (CHAL) of Nepal under current conditions and 3 future climate change trajectories based on 3 representative concentration pathways (RCPs 2.6, 4.5, and 8.5) in 2 different time periods (2050 and 2070) using species occurrence data, and bioclimatic and topographic variables. Minimum temperature in the coldest month was the most important variable affecting the distribution of A. adenophora. About 38% (12,215 km2) of the CHAL area is climatically suitable for A. adenophora, with the Middle Mountain physiographic region being the most suitable one. A predicted increase in current suitable areas ranges from 1 to 2% under future climate scenarios (RCP 2.6 and RCP 8.5). All protected areas and 3 physiographic regions (Siwaliks, High Mountain, High Himalaya) are likely to gain climatically suitable areas in future climate scenarios. The upper elevational distribution limit of the weed is expected to expand by 31-48 m in future climate scenarios, suggesting that the weed will colonize additional areas at higher elevations in the future. In conclusion, our results showed that a vast area of CHAL is climatically suitable for A. adenophora. Expected further range expansion and upslope migration in the future make it essential to initiate effective management measures to prevent further negative impacts of this invasive plant.