Predicting Invasions of Woody Plants Introduced into North America

Predicting Invasions of Woody Plants Introduced into North America
Plant species continue to be introduced in North America for various purposes. If the trend continues, it is probable that some will escape cultivation and become invasive in native ecosystems. We present a retrospective analysis of several structural, life history, and biogeographical attributes of woody plants introduced in North America to determine which traits characterize species that have and have not invaded. Predictive models derived from discriminant analysis correctly classified 86.2% of the species in cross-validation, whereas those derived from classification and regression trees classified 76% correctly. From these models we created a hierarchical predictive tree that allows the user to divide species into three categories: admit (low risk of invasiveness), deny admission (high risk of invasiveness), or delay admission for further analyses and/or monitor intensively (risk cannot adequately be assessed based on only the included attributes). We recommend that species that are highly invasive elsewhere not be allowed into the U.S. and that a more conservative introduction policy using a hierarchical predictive method be employed.
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