Giants invading the tropics: the oriental vessel fern, Angiopteris evecta (Marattiaceae)
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- Christenhusz, M.J.M. & Toivonen, T.K. Biol Invasions (2008) 10: 1215. doi:10.1007/s10530-007-9197-7
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The Oriental vessel fern, Angiopteris evecta (G.Forst.) Hoffm. (Marattiaceae), has its native range in the South Pacific. This species has been introduced into other localities since the 18th century and is now listed as an invasive species in several regions (Jamaica, Hawaii and Costa Rica). The purpose of our study is (1) to trace the distributional history of the species, and (2) to model its potential future range based on climatic conditions. The native range and the history of introduction are based on the existing literature and on 158 specimens from 15 herbaria, together with field observations. As there are taxonomic problems surrounding A. evecta, we limited our analysis to samples from the Pacific, most closely resembling the type from Tahiti. We modelled the potential range using GARP species distribution modelling with basic climatic variables, elevation, and location in relation to the coast. Analysis of past records shows that the species is able to colonise new ecosystems with relative ease. The modelling reveals that the species could be cultivated over a much wider range than where it currently is grown. The escape of cultivated plants into nature is probably due to distance from natural areas and is limited by local ecological factors, such as soil conditions or competitors. The predicted distribution in Asia and Madagascar is similar to the native distribution of the entire genus Angiopteris. It can therefore be assumed that most Angiopteris species have similar climatic preferences, and the absence of A. evecta in this predicted region may be due to dispersal limitation. In the Americas there is no native Angiopteris, but our climatic model predicts a vast potential habitat in tropical America; an invasion of A. evecta should be anticipated here in localities where the species is cultivated. Vessel ferns are known to alter the natural environment, which may reduce local biodiversity. Since A. evecta is not yet widely cultivated, it is advisable to restrict the trade and spread of the species and to discourage its cultivation as an ornamental. The global climate data available for modelling is however not detailed enough to predict the spread of A. evecta on a local or regional scale.