DOI: 10.1111/1365-2745.14234 ISSN: 0022-0477

Spatial scale matters for predicting plant invasions along roads

Dorota Kotowska, Piotr Skórka, Tomas Pärt, Alistair G. Auffret, Michał Żmihorski
  • Plant Science
  • Ecology
  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics


Biological invasions threaten global biodiversity and can have severe economic and social impacts. The complexity of this problem challenges effective management of invasive alien species as the contribution of many factors involved in the invasion processes across different spatial scales is not well understood.

Here, we identify the most important determinants associated with the occurrence of two invasive alien plants, the North American goldenrods (Solidago canadensis and S. gigantea), commonly found in agricultural landscapes of Europe. We used Google Street View images to perform a remote, large‐scale inventory of goldenrods along 1347 roadside transects across Poland. Using open access geospatial data and machine learning techniques, we investigated the relative role of nearly 50 variables potentially affecting the distribution of studied species at five spatial scales (from within 0.25 to 5 km of the studied locations).

We found that the occurrence of goldenrods along roadsides was simultaneously associated with multiple drivers among which those related to human impacts, climate, soil properties and landscape structure were the most important, while local characteristics, such as road parameters or the presence of other alien plants were less influential. However, the relative contribution of different variables in predicting goldenrod distribution changed across spatial scales.

Synthesis: Mechanisms underlying plant invasions are highly complex and a number of factors can jointly influence the outcomes of this process. However, since different invasion drivers operate at different spatial scales, some important associations may be overlooked when focusing on a single spatial context. Although associations were consistent in direction (positive or negative) across scales, their relative influence on goldenrod occurrence often changed. Socio‐economic factors were largely important at local scales, while the effect of landscape factors broadly increased with increasing spatial scale. We highlight that using multi‐scale approaches involving a wide range of variables may enable setting priorities for the management of invasive alien plants.

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