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Housing is positively associated with invasive exotic plant species richness in New England, USA

Gavier-Pizarro, Gregorio I., Radeloff, Volker C., Stewart, Susan I., Huebner, Cynthia D., Keuler, Nicholas S.
Ecological applications 2010 v.20 no.7 pp. 1913-1925
ecological function, ecological invasion, environmental factors, forests, humans, income, introduced plants, invasive species, land cover, landscaping, life history, normalized difference vegetation index, rain, regression analysis, residential areas, roads, species diversity, topography, wildland-urban interface, New England region, United States
Understanding the factors related to invasive exotic species distributions at broad spatial scales has important theoretical and management implications, because biological invasions are detrimental to many ecosystem functions and processes. Housing development facilitates invasions by disturbing land cover, introducing nonnative landscaping plants, and facilitating dispersal of propagules along roads. To evaluate relationships between housing and the distribution of invasive exotic plants, we asked (1) how strongly is housing associated with the spatial distribution of invasive exotic plants compared to other anthropogenic and environmental factors; (2) what type of housing pattern is related to the richness of invasive exotic plants; and (3) do invasive plants represent ecological traits associated with specific housing patterns? Using two types of regression analysis (best subset analysis and hierarchical partitioning analysis), we found that invasive exotic plant richness was equally or more strongly related to housing variables than to other human (e.g., mean income and roads) and environmental (e.g., topography and forest cover) variables at the county level across New England. Richness of invasive exotic plants was positively related to area of wildland–urban interface (WUI), low‐density residential areas, change in number of housing units between 1940 and 2000, mean income, plant productivity (NDVI), and altitudinal range and rainfall; it was negatively related to forest area and connectivity. Plant life history traits were not strongly related to housing patterns. We expect the number of invasive exotic plants to increase as a result of future housing growth and suggest that housing development be considered a primary factor in plans to manage and monitor invasive exotic plant species.