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NeoBiota  2012 

Temporal introduction patterns of invasive alien plant species to Australia

DOI: 10.3897/neobiota.13.2422

Keywords: Biological invasions , exotic plants , introduction history , invasion ecology , residence time

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We examined temporal introduction patterns of 132 invasive alien plant species (IAPS) to Australia since European colonisation in 1770. Introductions of IAPS were high during 1810–1820 (10 species), 1840–1880 (51 species, 38 of these between 1840 and 1860) and 1930–1940 (9 species). Conspicuously few introductions occurred during 10-year periods directly preceding each introduction peak. Peaks during early European settlement (1810–1820) and human range expansion across the continent (1840-1860) both coincided with considerable growth in Australia’s human population. We suggest that population growth during these times increased the likelihood of introduced plant species becoming invasive as a result of increased colonization and propagule pressure. Deliberate introductions of IAPS (104 species) far outnumbered accidental introductions (28 species) and were particularly prominent during early settlement. Cosmopolitan IAPS (25 species) and those native solely to South America (53 species), Africa (27 species) and Asia (19 species) have been introduced deliberately and accidentally to Australia across a broad period of time. A small number of IAPS, native solely to Europe (5 species) and North America (2 species), were all introduced to Australia prior to 1880. These contrasting findings for native range suggest some role for habitat matching, with similar environmental conditions in Australia potentially driving the proliferation of IAPS native to southern-hemisphere regions. Shrub, tree and vine species dominated IAPS introduced prior to 1840, with no grasses or forbs introduced during early colonisation. Since 1840, all five growth forms have been introduced deliberately and accidentally in relatively large numbers across a broad period of time. In particular, a large number of grass and forb IAPS were deliberately introduced between 1840 and 1860, most likely a direct result of the introduction of legislation promoting intensive agriculture across large areas of the continent. Since the 1980s, only three IAPS have been introduced (all deliberately introduced forbs). The decline in IAPS introductions is most likely a reflection of both increased surveillance and biosecurity efforts and the likelihood that many potential IAPS are still within a pre-expansion lag period.


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