Original Paper

Biological Invasions

, Volume 14, Issue 3, pp 547-556

First online:

Latitudinal shifts of introduced species: possible causes and implications

  • Qinfeng GuoAffiliated withUSDA FS, Eastern Forest Environmental Threat Assessment Center Email author 
  • , Dov F. SaxAffiliated withEcology and Evolutionary Biology, Brown University
  • , Hong QianAffiliated withResearch and Collections Center, Illinois State Museum
  • , Regan EarlyAffiliated withCátedra “Rui Nabeiro” Biodiversidade, Universidade de Évora

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This study aims to document shifts in the latitudinal distributions of non-native species relative to their own native distributions and to discuss possible causes and implications of these shifts. We used published and newly compiled data on inter-continentally introduced birds, mammals and plants. We found strong correlations between the latitudinal distributions occupied by species in their native and exotic ranges. However, relatively more non-native species occur at latitudes higher than those in their native ranges, and fewer occur at latitudes lower than those in their native ranges. Only a small fraction of species examined (i.e. <20% of animals and <10% of plants) have expanded their distributions in their exotic range beyond both high- and low-limits of their native latitudes. Birds, mammals and plants tended to shift their exotic ranges in similar ways. In addition, most non-native species (65–85% in different groups) have not reached the distributional extent observed in their native ranges. The possible drivers of latitudinal shifts in the exotic range may include climate change, greater biotic resistance at lower latitudes, historical limitations on ranges in native regions, and the impacts of humans on species distributions. The relatively restricted distribution of most species in their exotic range highlights the great potential of future spread of most introduced species and calls for closely monitoring their directional spread under climate change.


Climate change Invasion potential Land use Niche Risk assessment Species range