Alien, naturalized and invasive plants in China.
Invasive species are a subset of naturalized species, and naturalized species are a subset of alien species. Determining the relationship among these three assemblages would be helpful in predicting and preventing biological invasion. Here, we reviewed the families, lifeforms, origins, introduction pathways and phylogenetic diversity of alien, naturalized and invasive vascular plants in China. The results show that species in the Asteraceae, Fabaceae and Poaceae families had a high dominance among alien, naturalized and invasive species. Moreover, almost all alien species in the Amaranthaceae, Solanaceae, Convolvulaceae and Euphorbiaceae families became naturalized species, and about 26.7% of the naturalized species became invasive species. Perennial herbs comprised a higher proportion of alien species than did annual herbs, though annual herbs were more suited to becoming invasive than perennial herbs. A considerable proportion (57.8%) of invasive species were introduced from America. More than half (56.5%) of alien species were introduced for their ornamental value, and half of these have become naturalized in China. Moreover, about half (55.2%) of all invasive species were introduced for their economic value (including ornamental, foraging and medicinal purposes). Invasive species were phylogenetically clustered and phylogenetically distant from alien and naturalized species, which indicates that phylogenetic differences could be helpful in becoming invasive. There is no doubt that human activity plays a significant role in biological invasion. This study suggests that when introducing alien species to a region, decision-makers should certainly consider the species' phylogeny, beyond just its fundamental characteristics.