Alien plants invasion has negative impacts on the structure and functionality of ecosystems. Understanding the determinants of this process is fundamental for addressing environmental issues, such as the water availability in South Africa’s catchments. Both environmental and anthropogenic factors determine the invasion of alien species; however, their relative importance has to be quantified. The aim of this paper was to estimate the importance of 32 explanatory variables in predicting the distribution of the major invasive alien plant species (IAPS) of South Africa, through the use of Species Distribution Models. We used data from the National Invasive Alien Plants Survey, delineated at a quaternary catchment level, coupled with climatic, land cover, edaphic, and anthropogenic variables. Using two-part generalized linear models, we compared the accuracy of two different sets of variables in predicting the spatial distribution of IAPS; the first included environmental correlates alone, and the second included both environmental and anthropogenic variables. Using Random Forest, we explored the relative importance of the variables in producing a map of potential distribution of IAPS. Results showed that the inclusion of anthropogenic variables did not significantly improve model predictions. The most important variables influencing the distribution of IAPS appeared to be the climatic ones. The modeled potential distribution was analyzed in relation to provinces, biomes, and species’ minimum residence time.
Plant Ecology – Springer Journals
Published: Jan 15, 2018
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