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What drives invasibility? A multi-model inference test and spatial modelling of alien plant species richness patterns in northern Portugal
Understanding and anticipating biological invasions can focus either on traits that favour species invasiveness or on features of the receiving communities, habitats or landscapes that promote their invasibility. Here, we address invasibility at the regional scale, testing whether some habitats and landscapes are more invasible than others by fitting models that relate alien plant species richness to various environmental predictors. We use a multi-model information-theoretic approach to assess invasibility by modelling spatial and ecological patterns of alien invasion in landscape mosaics and testing competing hypotheses of environmental factors that may control invasibility. Because invasibility may be mediated by particular characteristics of invasiveness, we classified alien species according to their C-S-R plant strategies. We illustrate this approach with a set of 86 alien species in Northern Portugal. We first focus on predictors influencing species richness and expressing invasibility and then evaluate whether distinct plant strategies respond to the same or different groups of environmental predictors. We confirmed climate as a primary determinant of alien invasions and as a primary environmental gradient determining landscape invasibility. The effects of secondary gradients were detected only when the area was sub-sampled according to predictions based on the primary gradient. Then, multiple predictor types influenced patterns of alien species richness, with some types (landscape composition, topography and fire regime) prevailing over others. Alien species richness responded most strongly to extreme land management regimes, suggesting that intermediate disturbance induces biotic resistance by favouring native species richness. Land-use intensification facilitated alien invasion, whereas conservation areas hosted few invaders, highlighting the importance of ecosystem stability in preventing invasions. Plants with different strategies exhibited different responses to environmental gradients, particularly when the variations of the primary gradient were narrowed by sub-sampling. Such differential responses of plant strategies suggest using distinct control and eradication approaches for different areas and alien plant groups.
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