Effects of ecoregional vulnerability on habitat suitability of invasive alien plants: an assessment using 13 species on a global scale

  • Ji-Zhong Wan
  • Zhi-Xiang Zhang
  • Chun-Jing WangEmail author
Original Article


The development of new hypotheses can promote the explanation of mechanisms on plant invasion across different scales. We tested the hypothesis that ecoregional vulnerability can affect habitat suitability of invasive alien plants (IAPs) in non-native ranges. We used 13 IAPs, distributed around the world, and identified vulnerable ecoregions belonging to different biomes and biogeographical realms. Then, Maxent modeling was used to assess the habitat suitability of IAPs. We quantified the effects of ecoregional vulnerability on habitat suitability of IAPs as effect sizes using the log response ratio of habitat suitability. Ecoregional vulnerability had significant effects on habitat suitability for IAPs in invasive ranges across different biomes and biogeographical realms. Such effects may depend on the biomes and biogeographical realms of interest. Ecoregional vulnerability had positive effects on the habitat suitability of Chromolaena odorata, Clidemia hirta, Imperata cylindrica, Melaleuca quinquenervia, Mikania micrantha, Prosopis glandulosa, Rubus ellipticus, and Tamarix ramosissima. Vulnerable ecoregions of tropical and subtropical moist broadleaf forests and temperate broadleaf and mixed forests could result in large distributions and the highest habitat suitability of IAPs. The vulnerable ecoregions were mainly distributed in the biogeographical realms of Australasia, Nearctic, Neotropics, and Oceania. We tested a new hypothesis on disturbances and biological diversity based on ecoregional vulnerability over large scales. Our findings support the hypothesis that ecoregional vulnerability can increase habitat suitability of IAPs, promoting IAPs to expand in invasive ranges. Our study provides insight into the development of new hypotheses on the mechanisms of plant invasion over large scales.


Biogeographical realm Biome Effect size Habitat suitability modeling Plant invasion Vulnerable ecoregion 



This work has been supported by the National Natural Science Foundation of China (NSFC) (Nos. 31800449 and 31800464) and the Basic Research Project of Qinghai Province, China (Nos. 2019-ZJ-936Q and 2019-ZJ-960Q).

Supplementary material

12665_2019_8186_MOESM1_ESM.docx (12 kb)
Supplementary material 1 (DOCX 12 KB)


  1. Allen JM, Bradley BA (2016) Out of the weeds? Reduced plant invasion risk with climate change in the continental United States. Biol Cons 203:306–312CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Beauséjour R, Handa IT, Lechowicz MJ, Gilbert B, Vellend M (2015) Historical anthropogenic disturbances influence patterns of non-native earthworm and plant invasions in a temperate primary forest. Biol Invasions 17:1267–1281CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Bengtsson J, Nilsson SG, Franc A, Menozzi P (2000) Biodiversity, disturbances, ecosystem function and management of European forests. For Ecol Manage 13:39–50CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Blumenthal DM (2006) Interactions between resource availability and enemy release in plant invasion. Ecol Lett 9:887–895CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Bradley BA, Blumenthal DM, Wilcove DS, Ziska LH (2010) Predicting plant invasions in an era of global change. Trends Ecol Evol 25:310–318CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Broennimann O, Treier UA, Müller-Schärer H, Thuiller W, Peterson AT, Guisan A (2007) Evidence of climatic niche shift during biological invasion. Ecol Lett 10:701–709CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Carvalho FM, Júnior PDM, Ferreira LG (2009) The Cerrado into-pieces: Habitat fragmentation as a function of landscape use in the savannas of central Brazil. Biol Cons 142:1392–1403CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Crall AW, Jarnevich CS, Panke B, Young N, Renz M, Morisette J (2013) Using habitat suitability models to target invasive plant species surveys. Ecol Appl 23:60–72CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. De Rouw A (1991) The invasion of Chromolaena odorata (L.) King and Robinson (ex Eupatorium odoratum), and competition with the native flora, in a rain forest zone, south-west Cote d’Ivoire. J Biogeogr 18:13–23CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Early R, Bradley BA, Dukes JS, Lawler JJ, Olden JD, Blumenthal DM, Gonzalez P, Grosholz ED, Ibañez I, Miller LP, Sorte CJB, Sorte CJ (2016) Global threats from invasive alien species in the twenty-first century and national response capacities. Nat Commun 7:12485CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Elith J, Phillips SJ, Hastie T, Dudík M, Chee YE, Yates CJ (2011) A statistical explanation of MaxEnt for ecologists. Divers Distrib 17:43–57CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Fargione JE, Tilman D (2005) Diversity decreases invasion via both sampling and complementarity effects. Ecol Lett 8:604–611CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Faulkner KT, Robertson MP, Rouget M, Wilson JR (2014) A simple, rapid methodology for developing invasive species watch lists. Biol Cons 179:25–32CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Gómez-Aparicio L, Canham CD (2008) Neighborhood models of the effects of invasive tree species on ecosystem processes. Ecol Monogr 78:69–86CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Goodall JM, Erasmus DJ (1996) Review of the status and integrated control of the invasive alien weed, Chromolaena odorata, in South Africa. Agric Ecosyst Environ 56:151–164CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Hedges LV, Gurevitch J, Curtis PS (1999) The meta-analysis of response ratios in experimental ecology. Ecology 80:1150–1156CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Hejda M, Pyšek P, Jarošík V (2009) Impact of invasive plants on the species richness, diversity and composition of invaded communities. J Ecol 97:393–403CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Hobbs RJ, Huenneke LF (1992) Disturbance, diversity, and invasion: implications for conservation. Conserv Biol 6:324–337CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Hoekstra JM, Boucher TM, Ricketts TH, Roberts C (2005) Confronting a biome crisis: global disparities of habitat loss and protection. Ecol Lett 8:23–29CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Horvitz N, Wang R, Wan FH, Nathan R (2017) Pervasive human-mediated large-scale invasion: analysis of spread patterns and their underlying mechanisms in 17 of China’s worst invasive plants. J Ecol 105:85–94CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Hulme PE (2017) Climate change and biological invasions: evidence, expectations, and response options. Biol Rev 92:1297–1313CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Jarnevich CS, Stohlgren TJ, Kumar S, Morisette JT, Holcombe TR (2015) Caveats for correlative species distribution modeling. Ecol Inf 29:6–15CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Jeschke J, Aparicio LG, Haider S, Heger T, Lortie C, Pyšek P, Strayer D (2012) Support for major hypotheses in invasion biology is uneven and declining. NeoBiota 14:1CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Jose S, Cox J, Miller DL, Shilling DG, Merritt S (2002) Alien plant invasions: the story of cogongrass in southeastern forests. J Forest 100:41–44Google Scholar
  25. Kalusová V, Chytrý M, Kartesz JT, Nishino M, Pyšek P (2013) Where do they come from and where do they go? European natural habitats as donors of invasive alien plants globally. Divers Distrib 19:199–214CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Keane RM, Crawley MJ (2002) Exotic plant invasions and the enemy release hypothesis. Trends Ecol Evol 17:164–170CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Kennedy TA, Naeem S, Howe KM, Knops JM, Tilman D, Reich P (2002) Biodiversity as a barrier to ecological invasion. Nature 417:636CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Leishman MR, Haslehurst T, Ares A, Baruch Z (2007) Leaf trait relationships of native and invasive plants: community-and global-scale comparisons. New Phytol 176:635–643CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Liao H, Luo W, Peng S, Callaway RM (2015) Plant diversity, soil biota and resistance to exotic invasion. Divers Distrib 21:826–835CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Luque GM, Bellard C, Bertelsmeier C, Bonnaud E, Genovesi P, Simberloff D, Courchamp F (2014) The 100th of the world’s worst invasive alien species. Biol Invasions 16:981–985CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. MacDougall AS, Gilbert B, Levine JM (2009) Plant invasions and the niche. J Ecol 97:609–615CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Maron JL, Vilà M (2001) When do herbivores affect plant invasion? Evidence for the natural enemies and biotic resistance hypotheses. Oikos 95:361–373CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Merow C, Smith MJ, Silander JA (2013) A practical guide to MaxEnt for modeling species’ distributions: what it does, and why inputs and settings matter. Ecography 36:1058–1069CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Meyer C, Weigelt P, Kreft H (2016) Multidimensional biases, gaps and uncertainties in global plant occurrence information. Ecol Lett 19:992–1006CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Morán-Ordóñez A, Lahoz-Monfort JJ, Elith J, Wintle BA (2017) Evaluating 318 continental-scale species distribution models over a 60-year prediction horizon: what factors influence the reliability of predictions? Glob Ecol Biogeogr 26:371–384CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Myers JA, Chase JM, Crandall RM, Jiménez I (2015) Disturbance alters beta-diversity but not the relative importance of community assembly mechanisms. J Ecol 103:1291–1299CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Naeem S, Knops JM, Tilman D, Howe KM, Kennedy T, Gale S (2000) Plant diversity increases resistance to invasion in the absence of covarying extrinsic factors. Oikos 91:97–108CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Oke OA, Thompson KA (2015) Distribution models for mountain plant species: the value of elevation. Ecol Model 301:72–77CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Olson DM, Dinerstein E (1998) The Global 200: a representation approach to conserving the Earth’s most biologically valuable ecoregions. Conserv Biol 12:502–515CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Olson DM, Dinerstein E, Wikramanayake ED, Burgess ND, Powell GVN, Underwood EC, D’amico JA, Itoua I, Strand HE, Morrison JC, Loucks CJ, Allnutt TF, Ricketts TH, Kura Y, Lamoreux JF, Wettengel WW, Hedao P, Loucks CJ (2001) Terrestrial Ecoregions of the World: a New Map of Life on Earth A new global map of terrestrial ecoregions provides an innovative tool for conserving biodiversity. Bioscience 51:933–938CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Otsamo R (2000) Secondary forest regeneration under fast-growing forest plantations on degraded Imperata cylindrica grasslands. New Forest 19:69–93CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Petitpierre B, Kueffer C, Broennimann O, Randin C, Daehler C, Guisan A (2012) Climatic niche shifts are rare among terrestrial plant invaders. Science 335:1344–1348CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. Phillips SJ, Anderson RP, Schapire RE (2006) Maximum entropy modeling of species geographic distributions. Ecol Model 190:231–259CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. Phillips SJ, Anderson RP, Dudík M, Schapire RE, Blair ME (2017) Opening the black box: an open-source release of Maxent. Ecography 40:887–893CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. Pimentel D, Zuniga R, Morrison D (2005) Update on the environmental and economic costs associated with alien-invasive species in the United States. Ecol Econ 52:273–288CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. Radosavljevic A, Anderson RP (2014) Making better Maxent models of species distributions: complexity, overfitting and evaluation. J Biogeogr 41:629–643CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. Richardson DM, Rejmánek M (2011) Trees and shrubs as invasive alien species—a global review. Divers Distrib 17:788–809CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. Richardson DM, Pyšek P, Rejmánek M, Barbour MG, Panetta FD, West CJ (2000) Naturalization and invasion of alien plants: concepts and definitions. Divers Distrib 6:93–107CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  49. Rouget M, Hui C, Renteria J, Richardson DM, Wilson JRU (2015) Plant invasions as a biogeographical assay: vegetation biomes constrain the distribution of invasive alien species assemblages. S Afr J Bot 101:24–31CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  50. Roxburgh SH, Shea K, Wilson JB (2004) The intermediate disturbance hypothesis: patch dynamics and mechanisms of species coexistence. Ecology 85:359–371CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  51. Shea K, Roxburgh SH, Rauschert ES (2004) Moving from pattern to process: coexistence mechanisms under intermediate disturbance regimes. Ecol Lett 7:491–508CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  52. Simmons MT, Archer SR, Teague WR, Ansley RJ (2008) Tree (Prosopis glandulosa) effects on grass growth: an experimental assessment of above-and belowground interactions in a temperate savanna. J Arid Environ 72:314–325CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  53. Slodowicz D, Descombes P, Kikodze D, Broennimann O, Müller-Schärer H (2018) Areas of high conservation value at risk by plant invaders in Georgia under climate change. Ecol Evol 8:4431–4442CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  54. Stohlgren TJ, Barnett DT, Kartesz JT (2003) The rich get richer: patterns of plant invasions in the United States. Front Ecol Environ 1:11–14CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  55. Strauss SY, Lau JA, Schoener TW, Tiffin P (2008) Evolution in ecological field experiments: implications for effect size. Ecol Lett 11:199–207CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  56. Taylor KT, Maxwell BD, Pauchard A, Nuñez MA, Peltzer DA, Terwei A, Rew LJ (2016) Drivers of plant invasion vary globally: evidence from pine invasions within six ecoregions. Glob Ecol Biogeogr 25:96–106CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  57. Thom D, Seidl R (2016) Natural disturbance impacts on ecosystem services and biodiversity in temperate and boreal forests. Biol Rev 91:760–781CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  58. Thuiller W, Richardson DM, PYŠEK P, Midgley GF, Hughes GO, Rouget M (2005) Niche-based modelling as a tool for predicting the risk of alien plant invasions at a global scale. Glob Change Biol 11:2234–2250CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  59. van Wilgen BW, Reyers B, Le Maitre DC, Richardson DM, Schonegevel L (2008) A biome-scale assessment of the impact of invasive alien plants on ecosystem services in South Africa. J Environ Manage 89:336–349CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  60. Vilà M, Espinar JL, Hejda M, Hulme PE, Jarošík V, Maron JL, Pergl J, Schaffner U, Sun Y, Pyšek P (2011) Ecological impacts of invasive alien plants: a meta-analysis of their effects on species, communities and ecosystems. Ecol Lett 14:702–708CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  61. Wan JZ, Wang CJ (2018) Expansion risk of invasive plants in regions of high plant diversity: a global assessment using 36 species. Ecol Inf 46:8–18CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  62. Wan JZ, Wang CJ, Yu FH (2016) Risk hotspots for terrestrial plant invaders under climate change at the global scale. Environ Earth Sci 75:1012CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  63. Wan JZ, Wang CJ, Yu FH (2017) Modeling impacts of human footprint and soil variability on the potential distribution of invasive plant species in different biomes. Acta Oecol 85:141–149CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  64. Wan JZ, Zhang ZX, Wang CJ (2018) Identifying potential distributions of 10 invasive alien trees: implications for conservation management of protected areas. Environ Monit Assess 190:739CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • Ji-Zhong Wan
    • 1
  • Zhi-Xiang Zhang
    • 3
  • Chun-Jing Wang
    • 1
    • 2
    Email author
  1. 1.State Key Laboratory of Plateau Ecology and AgricultureQinghai UniversityXiningChina
  2. 2.College of Agriculture and Animal HusbandryQinghai UniversityXiningChina
  3. 3.School of Nature ConservationBeijing Forestry UniversityBeijingChina

Personalised recommendations