Human-mediated transport beyond biogeographic barriers has led to the introduction and establishment of alien species in new regions worldwide. However, a global picture of established alien species richness for multiple taxonomic groups has been lacking. We assessed global patterns and potential drivers of established alien species richness across eight taxonomic groups (amphibians, ants, birds, freshwater fishes, mammals, vascular plants, reptiles and spiders) for 186 islands and 423 mainland regions.
We found that hotspots of established alien species richness are predominantly island and coastal mainland regions. The top three regions (after accounting for area and sampling effort) are the Hawaiian Islands, the North Island of New Zealand, and the Lesser Sunda Islands of Indonesia. The top coastal mainland region is Florida, with Italy and California also featuring among the top 2.5% of regions overall.
Lead author Dr Wayne Dawson said:
“Our research shows that, islands and mainland coastal regions contain higher numbers of established alien plants and animals, and this may be because these areas have major points of entry like ports. In general, regions that are wealthier, and where human populations are denser also have more alien species, but these effects are stronger for islands.”
“More work is needed to understand whether these effects arise because more species are introduced to hotspot regions, or because human disturbance in these regions makes it easier for the newcomers to find vacant spaces and opportunities to thrive.”
Dr Dawson added:
“While species have been moved around the globe throughout history, more and more species will be introduced as the world becomes ever more connected, and the human population continues to grow. Many of these incoming species are useful, and won’t establish and spread in their new homes, but some will, with varying levels of impact on resident species and ecosystems. The challenge for us is to understand what the consequences are of mixing up the world’s species in this way, to decide how to deal with this change, and what measures we can put in place to try and prevent further introductions to the most vulnerable regions.”
The full paper can be found here