Landscape Ecology

, Volume 32, Issue 2, pp 229–238 | Cite as

Species pool, human population, and global versus regional invasion patterns

  • Qinfeng Guo
  • Basil V. Iannone III
  • Gabriela C. Nunez-Mir
  • Kevin M. Potter
  • Christopher M. Oswalt
  • Songlin Fei



Biological invasions are among the greatest global and regional threats to biomes in the Anthropocene. Islands, in particular, have been perceived to have higher vulnerability to invasions. Because of the dynamic nature of ongoing invasions, distinguishing regional patterns from global patterns and their underlying determinants remains a challenge.


We aim to comparatively examine global versus regional patterns of plant invasions and the possible underlying mechanisms. We also test whether there is a difference in degree of invasion and invasibility between mainland areas and islands.


We compiled and analyzed data from published sources for 100 mainland areas (i.e., regions, countries, states, and provinces) and 89 islands across the globe.


We find that (1) the pool of exotic species available intrinsically decreases as area of the land considered increases (at global scale, all is native), thus global invasion patterns assessed by exotic fraction (proportion of exotics) are primarily determined by land area; (2) because “exotic” is defined relative to the borders of the target region, “boundary effects” can result in regional differences in invasion patterns without any ecological processes being involved; and (3) human population density is closely linked to exotic fraction within regions that are defined by a single administrative border.


There were clear differences between global and regional patterns of plant invasions. We observed no difference in the exotic fraction-area relationship between mainland areas and islands, supporting what we refer to as the “island-mainland continuum concept” (i.e., no clear separation in the degree of invasion between islands and mainland area with regard to the effects of area). Because of scale-dependency in many observed patterns, future focus should be placed on the links between local, regional, and global invasion patterns.


Anthropocene Area Boundary effects Comparison Globalization Homogenization Human “Island-mainland continuum” 



We thank A. Liebhold, J. Long, M. Winter, and anonymous reviewers for offering data and/or helpful comments. M. Scobie and D. Sovilla of the National Environmental Modeling and Analysis Center (NEMAC) at the University of North Carolina—Asheville assisted with data collection on island invasions. This study was supported by a NSF Macrosystems Biology grant (DEB-1241932).

Supplementary material

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Supplementary material 1 (DOCX 1007 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht (outside the USA) 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  • Qinfeng Guo
    • 1
  • Basil V. Iannone III
    • 2
    • 5
  • Gabriela C. Nunez-Mir
    • 2
  • Kevin M. Potter
    • 3
  • Christopher M. Oswalt
    • 4
  • Songlin Fei
    • 2
  1. 1.FS Eastern Forest Threat Assessment CenterUSDAResearch Triangle ParkUSA
  2. 2.Department of Forestry and Natural ResourcesPurdue UniversityWest LafayetteUSA
  3. 3.Department of Forestry and Environmental ResourcesNorth Carolina State UniversityResearch Triangle ParkUSA
  4. 4.USDA Forest Service Southern Research StationKnoxvilleUSA
  5. 5.School of Forest Resources and ConservationProgram for Resource Efficient Communitiesand Center for Landscape Conservation and EcologyGainesvilleUSA

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