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Human population density explains alien species richness in protected areas

Spear, Dian, Foxcroft, Llewellyn C., Bezuidenhout, Hugo, McGeoch, Melodie A.
Biological conservation 2013 v.159 pp. 137-147
animals, conservation areas, ecological invasion, guidelines, human population, indigenous species, introduced plants, invasive species, linear models, monitoring, national parks, population density, protected species, rivers, roads, species diversity, vegetation, South Africa
Understanding the drivers of biological invasions, across taxa and regions, is important for designing appropriate management interventions. However there has been no work that has examined potential drivers of both plant and animal invasions, for both species considered to be aliens and those that are invasive. We use South Africa’s national park system (19 national parks, throughout South Africa and covering ∼39,000km2) as a model to test the generality of predictors of alien species richness in protected areas. We also compare the predictors of alien versus invasive species richness, and alien plant versus alien animal species richness. Species were classified as alien, invasive (having known negative impact on biodiversity) or extralimital, using standard definitions. Potential predictors (numbers of years since the park was proclaimed and since new land was acquired, park area, data availability, human population density in the vicinity of the park, number of roads, number of rivers, indigenous plant species richness and normalised difference vegetation index) of the number of alien and invasive species in national parks were examined for plants and animals using generalised linear models. Human population density surrounding parks was a significant and strong predictor of numbers of alien and invasive species across plants and animals. The role of other predictors, such as NDVI and park age, was inconsistent across models. Human population density has emerged here as an important predictor of alien species richness in protected areas across taxa, providing a basis for guidelines on where to focus surveillance and eradication efforts.