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Areas of high conservation value at risk by plant invaders in Georgia under climate change

  • Slodowicz, Daniel Department of Ecology and Evolution, University of Fribourg, Switzerland
  • Descombes, Patrice Swiss Federal Research Institute WSL, Birmensdorf, Switzerland - Landscape Ecology, Institute of Terrestrial Ecosystems, ETH Zürich, Switzerland
  • Kikodze, David Institute of Botany, Ilia State University, Tbilisi, Georgia
  • Broennimann, Olivier Department of Ecology and Evolution, University of Lausanne, Switzerland - Institute of Earth Surface Dynamics, University of Lausanne, Switzerland
  • Müller-Schärer, Heinz Department of Ecology and Evolution, University of Fribourg, Switzerland
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  • Ecology and Evolution. - 2018, vol. 8, no. 9, p. 4431–4442
English Invasive alien plants (IAP) are a threat to biodiversity worldwide. Understanding and anticipating invasions allow for more efficient management. In this regard, predicting potential invasion risks by IAPs is essential to support conservation planning into areas of high conservation value (AHCV) such as sites exhibiting exceptional botanical richness, assemblage of rare, and threatened and/or endemic plant species. Here, we identified AHCV in Georgia, a country showing high plant richness, and assessed the susceptibility of these areas to colonization by IAPs under present and future climatic conditions. We used actual protected areas and areas of high plant endemism (identified using occurrences of 114 Georgian endemic plant species) as proxies for AHCV. Then, we assessed present and future potential distribution of 27 IAPs using species distribution models under four climate change scenarios and stacked single-species potential distribution into a consensus map representing IAPs richness. We evaluated present and future invasion risks in AHCV using IAPs richness as a metric of susceptibility. We show that the actual protected areas cover only 9.4% of the areas of high plant endemism in Georgia. IAPs are presently located at lower elevations around the large urban centers and in western Georgia. We predict a shift of IAPs toward eastern Georgia and higher altitudes and an increased susceptibility of AHCV to IAPs under future climate change. Our study provides a good baseline for decision makers and stakeholders on where and how resources should be invested in the most efficient way to protect Georgia's high plant richness from IAPs.
Faculté des sciences et de médecine
Département de Biologie
  • English
Biological sciences
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