, Volume 15, Issue 4, pp 847-858
Date: 13 Sep 2012

A new comprehensive database of alien plant species in Chile based on herbarium records

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There is an urgent need for comprehensive national databases on alien plant species, especially in developing countries. Despite the fact that plant invasions are considered a major threat to biodiversity, they have been poorly studied or not considered a conservation priority in South America. We aim to assess alien plant distribution in Chile, using the first comprehensive public alien plant database, and discuss the implications of using herbarium records to develop national databases of alien plants. We used herbarium records to assemble a comprehensive national database of alien plants. We calculated the number of alien and native species and specimens recorded in each 10 × 10 km cell. We evaluated sampling efforts and tested for relationships between alien and native species collections, as well as other spatial patterns along the latitudinal gradient. Alien and native species richness was positively correlated. Alien plants were mostly collected in central Chile, with few species collected in both the extreme north and south. However, native plants were strongly collected in central Chile, as well as in both extremes of the country. Alien and native plants followed the same pattern of accumulation along the latitudinal gradient, with native plants being relatively more collected than alien plants. Herbarium records provide valuable baseline information to evaluate plant species distribution. However, there are important gaps in this database, (e.g. variable sampling effort for alien and native plants, incomplete information on life-history traits). Given scientists and land managers increasing demand for baseline information and the high cost of collecting such data in developing countries, herbarium records should be used more frequently for research and management of plant invasions.