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Am Nat. 2003 Dec;162(6):713-24. Epub 2003 Oct 22.

Inferring process from pattern in plant invasions: a semimechanistic model incorporating propagule pressure and environmental factors.

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Institute for Plant Conservation, Botany Department, University of Cape Town, Rondebosch 7701, South Africa.


Propagule pressure is intuitively a key factor in biological invasions: increased availability of propagules increases the chances of establishment, persistence, naturalization, and invasion. The role of propagule pressure relative to disturbance and various environmental factors is, however, difficult to quantify. We explored the relative importance of factors driving invasions using detailed data on the distribution and percentage cover of alien tree species on South Africa's Agulhas Plain (2,160 km2). Classification trees based on geology, climate, land use, and topography adequately explained distribution but not abundance (canopy cover) of three widespread invasive species (Acacia cyclops, Acacia saligna, and Pinus pinaster). A semimechanistic model was then developed to quantify the roles of propagule pressure and environmental heterogeneity in structuring invasion patterns. The intensity of propagule pressure (approximated by the distance from putative invasion foci) was a much better predictor of canopy cover than any environmental factor that was considered. The influence of environmental factors was then assessed on the residuals of the first model to determine how propagule pressure interacts with environmental factors. The mediating effect of environmental factors was species specific. Models combining propagule pressure and environmental factors successfully predicted more than 70% of the variation in canopy cover for each species.

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