The importance of roads, nutrients, and climate for invasive plant establishment in riparian areas in the northwestern United States

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Biological Invasions






Springer Verlag

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Natural and anthropogenic site characteristics play a role in determining the current distribution of invasive plant species. An understanding of these characteristics can be used to prioritize areas for monitoring and control efforts and to determine appropriate management actions to lower site invasion risk. We used species distribution models to look for attributes associated with invasion and to determine the extent to which these attributes varied across a suite of species. We modeled the presence-absence of 11 invasive plant species along riparian areas in the northwestern United States using the model Random Forests. We found that climate variables were most important for predicting species distributions across the large study area and factors related to nutrients, land cover, and disturbance had moderate importance. We also found that there was a general pattern related to invasion for almost all species. Invasion was more likely to occur at hotter, drier sites near roads in unforested areas. In addition, high nutrient levels and proximity to streams with lower baseflow values also generally increased the likelihood that at least one invasive species would be present. Examining patterns across a broad range of regions can help suggest general mechanisms of invasion as well as provide region-specific management recommendations.