, Volume 11, Issue 2, pp 241-252
Date: 27 Feb 2008

What parts of the US mainland are climatically suitable for invasive alien pythons spreading from Everglades National Park?

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Abstract

The Burmese Python (Python molurus bivittatus) is now well established in southern Florida and spreading northward. The factors likely to limit this spread are unknown, but presumably include climate or are correlated with climate. We compiled monthly rainfall and temperature statistics from 149 stations located near the edge of the python’s native range in Asia (Pakistan east to China and south to Indonesia). The southern and eastern native range limits extend to saltwater, leaving unresolved the species’ climatic tolerances in those areas. The northern and western limits are associated with cold and aridity respectively. We plotted mean monthly rainfall against mean monthly temperature for the 149 native range weather stations to identify the climate conditions inhabited by pythons in their native range, and mapped areas of the coterminous United States with the same climate today and projected for the year 2100. We accounted for both dry-season aestivation and winter hibernation (under two scenarios of hibernation duration). The potential distribution was relatively insensitive to choice of scenario for hibernation duration. US areas climatically matched at present ranged up the coasts and across the south from Delaware to Oregon, and included most of California, Texas, Oklahoma, Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, Florida, Georgia, and South and North Carolina. By the year 2100, projected areas of potential suitable climate extend northward beyond the current limit to include parts of the states of Washington, Colorado, Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, West Virginia, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and New York. Thus a substantial portion of the mainland US is potentially vulnerable to this ostensibly tropical invader.