The increasing globalization of human, animal, and plant populations drives researchers to investigate how, and at what rate, introduced species will successfully become part of a native ecosystem. For many organisms, certain traits are often related to invasion success; however, it is difficult to untangle an organism’s biology with other factors, such as the number of individuals released and the time since introduction. In the case of flowering plants (angiosperms), the ability to have multiple sets of chromosomes (polyploidy), and genome size play a major role in the successful colonization and spread of invasive plants. To better understand factors, both genetic and morphological, that allow angiosperms to be successful plant invaders, a team of CEID researchers developed a statistical model to analyze the process of naturalization of introduced plant species in Australia. By fusing information on collection dates and cultivation status with data on genomic and functional traits, as well as native range size for these introduced plant species, they were able to create multiple graphical models to pinpoint the most influential factors. The results from their model indicate that residence time and native range size were the best predictors of naturalization, and that the probability of naturalization increased as plant genome size decreased. Increasing our knowledge on the rate at which introduced species spread, as well as the factors that influence their survival in novel locations is critical for managing potentially harmful invasive species. Future research will most likely rely on statistical models such as this to help make these predictions and guide the management of invasive species.
Schmidt, John P., et al. “Residence time, native range size, and genome size predict naturalization among angiosperms introduced to Australia.” Ecology and Evolution, vol. 7, no. 23, 2017, pp. 10289–10300., doi:10.1002/ece3.3505.