Biological Invasions

, Volume 13, Issue 9, pp 1931–1944 | Cite as

Widespread plant species: natives versus aliens in our changing world

  • Thomas J. StohlgrenEmail author
  • Petr Pyšek
  • John Kartesz
  • Misako Nishino
  • Aníbal Pauchard
  • Marten Winter
  • Joan Pino
  • David M. Richardson
  • John R. U. Wilson
  • Brad R. Murray
  • Megan L. Phillips
  • Li Ming-yang
  • Laura Celesti-Grapow
  • Xavier Font
Perpectives and Paradigms


Estimates of the level of invasion for a region are traditionally based on relative numbers of native and alien species. However, alien species differ dramatically in the size of their invasive ranges. Here we present the first study to quantify the level of invasion for several regions of the world in terms of the most widely distributed plant species (natives vs. aliens). Aliens accounted for 51.3% of the 120 most widely distributed plant species in North America, 43.3% in New South Wales (Australia), 34.2% in Chile, 29.7% in Argentina, and 22.5% in the Republic of South Africa. However, Europe had only 1% of alien species among the most widespread species of the flora. Across regions, alien species relative to native species were either as well-distributed (10 comparisons) or more widely distributed (5 comparisons). These striking patterns highlight the profound contribution that widespread invasive alien plants make to floristic dominance patterns across different regions. Many of the most widespread species are alien plants, and, in particular, Europe and Asia appear as major contributors to the homogenization of the floras in the Americas. We recommend that spatial extent of invasion should be explicitly incorporated in assessments of invasibility, globalization, and risk assessments.


Alien plants Biotic homogenization China Europe Globalization North America Plant invasions South Africa South America Species distributions 



We thank the many taxonomists and database providers that made this study possible. Lifetimes of taxonomist expertise were required for geographic completeness, taxonomic accuracy, and quality control required for this cursory analysis. To taxonomists and data managers everywhere, we are grateful. We thank Zuzana Sixtová for technical assistance. PP was supported by the Academy of Sciences of the Czech Republic (AV0Z60050516 and Praemium Academiae Award) and the Ministry of Education of the Czech Republic (MSM0021620828 and LC06073). AP contribution supported by ICM P05-002 and PFB-23. TJS contribution supported by U.S. Geological Survey Invasive Species Program, USGS Fort Collins Science Program, and USDA CSREES/NRI 2008-35615-04666. We thank C. Daehler and two anonymous reviewers for very helpful suggestions.

Supplementary material

10530_2011_24_MOESM1_ESM.doc (108 kb)
Supplementary material 1 (DOC 107 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  • Thomas J. Stohlgren
    • 1
    Email author
  • Petr Pyšek
    • 2
    • 3
  • John Kartesz
    • 4
  • Misako Nishino
    • 4
  • Aníbal Pauchard
    • 5
  • Marten Winter
    • 6
  • Joan Pino
    • 7
  • David M. Richardson
    • 8
  • John R. U. Wilson
    • 8
    • 9
  • Brad R. Murray
    • 10
  • Megan L. Phillips
    • 10
  • Li Ming-yang
    • 11
  • Laura Celesti-Grapow
    • 12
  • Xavier Font
    • 13
  1. 1.National Institute of Invasive Species Science, US Geological SurveyFort Collins Science CenterFort CollinsUSA
  2. 2.Institute of Botany, Academy of Sciences of the Czech Republic PrůhoniceCharles University PraguePragueCzech Republic
  3. 3.Department of Ecology, Faculty of ScienceCharles University PraguePragueCzech Republic
  4. 4.Biota of North America ProgramChapel HillUSA
  5. 5.Laboratorio de Invasiones Biológicas, Facultad de Ciencias ForestalesUniversidad de Concepción & Institute for Ecology and Biodiversity (IEB)ConcepciónChile
  6. 6.Department of Community EcologyHelmholtz Centre for Environmental Research-UFZHalle (Saale)Germany
  7. 7.Center for Ecological Research and Forestry Applications(CREAF)Autonomous University of BarcelonaBellaterraSpain
  8. 8.Department of Botany and Zoology, Centre for Invasion Biology (CIB)Stellenbosch UniversityMatielandSouth Africa
  9. 9.South African National Biodiversity Institute (SANBI)Kirstenbosch National Botanical GardensClaremontSouth Africa
  10. 10.Department of Environmental Sciences, Plant Functional Biology and Climate Change ClusterUniversity of Technology SydneyBroadwayAustralia
  11. 11.College of Forest Resources and EnvironmentNanjing Forestry UniversityNanjingChina
  12. 12.Dipartimento di Biologia VegetaleUniversità La SapienzaRomeItaly
  13. 13.Plant Biology DepartmentUniversity of BarcelonaBarcelonaSpain

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