, Volume 16, Issue 3, pp 609-633

Casuarina: biogeography and ecology of an important tree genus in a changing world

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Abstract

Important insights on the invasion ecology of woody plants are emerging from the study of model groups, but it is important to test how widely such results can be generalised. We examined whether drivers of introduction and invasion in the genus Casuarina are similar to those identified for other groups. We reviewed the literature, mapped current global distributions, and modelled the potential global distribution of the genus. We assessed the rationale behind introductions, impacts of invasions, and the evolution of management approaches. Casuarinas have been introduced to about 150 countries. Ten of the 14 species in the genus have been introduced outside their native ranges, but only three species are recorded as naturalized or invasive (C. equisetifolia, C. cunninghamiana and C. glauca). Species with large native ranges are more likely to be introduced, and the three invasive species have the largest native ranges and the most records of introduction. There were no clear relationships between life-history traits (e.g. seed mass, plant height, or resprouting ability) and the extent of invasion. About 8 % of the Earth’s land surface is potentially suitable for casuarinas and large-scale plantings in some climatically suitable areas have not yet resulted in large-scale invasions; there is a substantial global Casuarina invasion debt. Experiences in Florida and the Mascarene Islands highlight that casuarinas have the potential to transform ecosystems with significant control costs. The challenge is to develop management approaches that minimise the impacts of invasions while preserving economic, environmental and cultural values of species in their introduced ranges.