, Volume 28, Issue 1, pp 81-93
Date: 28 Nov 2012

Hierarchical factors impacting the distribution of an invasive species: landscape context and propagule pressure

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Distribution of invasive species is the outcome of several processes that interact at different hierarchical levels. A hierarchical approach is taken here to analyze the landscape level distribution pattern of Purple loosestrife (Lythrum salicaria), an aggressive wetland invader. Using land use/land cover (LULC) data and loosestrife presence records we were able to identify and characterize the key processes that resulted in the observed large-scale distribution. Herbaceous wetlands, edges of open water sites, and developed open spaces were identified as loosestrife’s preferred LULC types. Analysis of spatial neighborhoods of these key land cover types revealed that disturbance modified open water edges and herbaceous wetlands were more likely to be invaded by loosestrife. Moreover, developed open spaces appear to hold loosestrife only if there is water rich conditions in the immediate neighborhood. Neighborhood analyses also showed that wetlands and open water edges embedded within a neighborhood matrix of grassland and agricultural environments is less likely to contain loosestrife. Finally, there is strong evidence of propagule pressure. Open water edges and wetlands invaded by loosestrife had on an average more loosestrife as neighbors than uninvaded lake edges and wetlands. Taken together, it is apparent that loosestrife’s landscape level distribution is the outcome of three nested hierarchical factors: habitat preference, the spatial neighborhood and propagule pressure. The patterns characterized suggests that occurrence of an invasive species is not merely contingent on availability of suitable habitat but is also influenced by human actions within its proximity, and is further constrained by dispersal limitation.