Predicting the potential distribution of invasive ring-necked parakeets Psittacula krameri in northern Belgium using an ecological niche modelling approach
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The threat to biodiversity due to invasive alien species is considered second only to that of habitat loss. Given the large number of species that are currently invading ecosystems all over the world, we need to distinguish invaders with minor effects from those with large effects in order to prioritize management efforts. Ecological niche models can be used to predict the potential distribution of an invasive species from occurrence records and environmental data layers. We used the Ecological Niche Factor Analysis (ENFA), a presence-only predictive modelling approach, to describe the invasive ring-necked parakeets’ realized niche and to identify areas suitable for the parakeet in northern Belgium. ENFA proved to be a robust and reliable modelling technique, able to gauge the ecological requirements of an invasive species without the need to include historical information on the starting point of the invasion. ENFA shows that the parakeets tend to occupy relatively rare habitats compared to the main environmental conditions in northern Belgium, although they show some tolerance for environmental conditions inside parks and forests. The general distribution of the ring-necked parakeet is governed primarily by the amount of older forest patches, parks and built-up area in the landscape—reflecting the parakeets’ need for suitable nesting cavities and its reliance upon urban areas to forage. Our resulting habitat suitability maps show that the parakeets have ample room to further increase their range in northern Belgium. Our results indicate some concern for increased competition between parakeets and the nuthatches, native cavity nesters known to suffer from competition with parakeets, as some regions known as nuthatch strongholds are highly likely to be invaded by the parakeets.