Naturalized species, which are not native but have established themselves in new locations, have the potential to spread even further to suitable habitats in many parts of the world, reports a new study by Henry Häkkinen, Dave Hodgson and Regan Early at the University of Exeter, UK, publishing November 14th in the open access journal PLOS Biology.

The researchers discovered there is huge potential for further spread of naturalized birds in North America, mammals in Eastern Europe and plants in North America, Eastern Europe and Australia. Furthermore, the history of a species’ introduction, its ability to disperse and the location of suitable areas are more important predictors of how a species has spread than its preferred habitat or how it interacts with other local residents.

Nearly all species in the new paper have yet to expand into all the areas with a suitable climate, the researchers find, despite having had plenty of time to invade. However, some introduced species may not become problematic until after an initial lag period. Many of the species studied have a small impact on their environment, but these findings are still concerning. A region can experience “invasional meltdown” when multiple introduced species amplify their impact and ability to become established, potentially with devastating effects.

Source: Eurek Alert!

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