Invasion risk of the currently cultivated alien flora in southern Africa is predicted to decline under climate change

2024 | journal article. A publication with affiliation to the University of Göttingen.

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​Invasion risk of the currently cultivated alien flora in southern Africa is predicted to decline under climate change​
Omer, A.; Essl, F.; Dullinger, S.; Lenzner, B.; García‐Rodríguez, A.; Moser, D. & Fristoe, T. et al.​ (2024) 
Ecography, art. e07010​.​ DOI: 

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Omer, Ali; Essl, Franz; Dullinger, Stefan; Lenzner, Bernd; García‐Rodríguez, Adrián; Moser, Dietmar; Fristoe, Trevor; Dawson, Wayne; Weigelt, Patrick; Kreft, Holger; Wessely, Johannes
Alien species can have massive impacts on native biodiversity, ecosystem functioning, and human livelihoods. Assessing which species from currently cultivated alien floras may escape into the wild and naturalize is essential for efficient and proactive ecosystem management and biodiversity conservation. Climate change has already promoted the naturalization of many alien plants in temperate regions, but whether it is similar in (sub)tropical areas is insufficiently known. In this study, we used species distribution models for 1527 cultivated alien plants to evaluate current and future invasion risks across different biomes and 10 countries in southern Africa. Our results confirm that the area of suitable climate is a strong predictor of naturalization success among the cultivated alien flora. In contrast to previous findings from temperate regions, however, climatic suitability is generally predicted to decrease for potential aliens across our (sub)tropical study region. While increasingly hotter and drier conditions are likely to drive declines in suitability for potential aliens across most biomes of southern Africa, in some the number of potential invaders is predicted to increase under moderate climate change scenarios (e.g. in dry broadleaf forests and flooded grasslands). We found that climatic suitability is expected to decline less for aliens originating from continents with the tropical biome or from the Southern Hemisphere. In addition, we found that the climatically suitable area will decline less for aliens that have already naturalized in the region. While the number of potential invaders may decrease across southern Africa under future climate change, our results suggest that already naturalized aliens will continue to threaten native species and ecosystems.
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