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PLoS One. 2010 Dec 29;5(12):e15297. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0015297.

Conclusions about niche expansion in introduced Impatiens walleriana populations depend on method of analysis.

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  • 1Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, Brown University, Providence, Rhode Island, United States of America.

Abstract

Determining the degree to which climate niches are conserved across plant species' native and introduced ranges is valuable to developing successful strategies to limit the introduction and spread of invasive plants, and also has important ecological and evolutionary implications. Here, we test whether climate niches differ between native and introduced populations of Impatiens walleriana, globally one of the most popular horticultural species. We use approaches based on both raw climate data associated with occurrence points and ecological niche models (ENMs) developed with Maxent. We include comparisons of climate niche breadth in both geographic and environmental spaces, taking into account differences in available habitats between the distributional areas. We find significant differences in climate envelopes between native and introduced populations when comparing raw climate variables, with introduced populations appearing to expand into wetter and cooler climates. However, analyses controlling for differences in available habitat in each region do not indicate expansion of climate niches. We therefore cannot reject the hypothesis that observed differences in climate envelopes reflect only the limited environments available within the species' native range in East Africa. Our results suggest that models built from only native range occurrence data will not provide an accurate prediction of the potential for invasiveness if applied to areas containing a greater range of environmental combinations, and that tests of niche expansion may overestimate shifts in climate niches if they do not control carefully for environmental differences between distributional areas.

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