Contrasting patterns in the invasions of European terrestrial and freshwater habitats by alien plants, insects and vertebrates

Petr Pyšek, Sven Bacher, Milan Chytrý, Vojtěch Jarošík, Jan Wild, Laura Celesti-Grapow, Núria Gassó, Marc Kenis, Philip W. Lambdon, Wolfgang Nentwig, Jan Pergl, Alain Roques, Jiří Sádlo, Wojciech Solarz, Montserrat Vilà, Philip E. Hulme

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127 Citations (Scopus)


Aim To provide the first comparative overview on the current numbers of alien species that invade representative European terrestrial and freshwater habitats for a range of taxonomic groups. Location Europe. Methods Numbers of naturalized alien species of plants, insects, herptiles, birds and mammals occurring in 10 habitats defined according to the European Nature Information System (EUNIS) were obtained from 115 regional data sets. Only species introduced after ad 1500 were considered. Data were analysed by ANCOVA and regression trees to assess whether differences exist among taxonomic groups in terms of their habitat affinity, and whether the pattern of occurrence of alien species in European habitats interacts with macroecological factors such as insularity, latitude or area. Results The highest numbers of alien plant and insect species were found in human-made, urban or cultivated habitats; if controlled for habitat area in the region, wetland and riparian habitats appeared to support relatively high numbers of alien plant species too. Invasions by vertebrates were more evenly distributed among habitats, with aquatic and riparian, woodland and cultivated land most invaded. Mires, bogs and fens, grassland, heathland and scrub were generally less invaded.Habitat and taxonomic group explained most variation in the proportions of alien species occurring in individual habitats related to the total number of alien species in a region, and the basic pattern determined by these factors was fine-tuned by geographical variables, namely by the mainland-island contrast and latitude, and differed among taxonomic groups. Main conclusions There are two ecologically distinct groups of alien species (plants and insects versus vertebrates) with strikingly different habitat affinities. Invasions by these two contrasting groups are complementary in terms of habitat use, which makes an overall assessment of habitat invasions in Europe possible. Since numbers of naturalized species in habitats are correlated among taxa within these two groups, the data collected for one group of vertebrates, for example, could be used to estimate the habitat-specific numbers of alien species for other vertebrate groups with reasonable precision, and the same holds true for insects and plants. © 2010 Blackwell Publishing Ltd.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)317-331
JournalGlobal Ecology and Biogeography
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 1 May 2010


  • Aquatic
  • Continental scale
  • Europe
  • Exotic
  • Habitat affinities
  • Invasive species
  • Level of invasion
  • Naturalized
  • Non-native
  • Weeds


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