Journal of Ecology and Environment

pISSN 2287-8327 eISSN 2288-1220


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Original Article

Published online October 17, 2021

Journal of Ecology and Environment (2021) 45:18

Major environmental factors and traits of invasive alien plants determine their spatial distribution: a case study in Korea

Minwoo Oh1, Yoonjeong Heo1, Eun Ju Lee1 and Hyohyemi Lee2

School of Biological Sciences, Seoul National University, Seoul, Republic of Korea; National Institute of Ecology, Seocheon, Republic of Korea

Correspondence to:Hyohyemi Lee

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As trade increases, the influx of various alien species and their spread to new regions are prevalent, making them a general problem globally. Anthropogenic activities and climate change have led to alien species becoming distributed beyond their native range. As a result, alien species can be easily found anywhere, with the density of individuals varying across locations. The prevalent distribution of alien species adversely affects invaded ecosystems; thus, strategic management plans must be established to control them effectively. To this end, this study evaluated hotspots and cold-spots in the degree of distribution of invasive alien plant species, and major environmental factors related to hot spots were identified. We analyzed 10,287 distribution points of 126 species of alien plant species collected through a national survey of alien species using the hierarchical model of species communities (HMSC) framework.>


The explanatory and fourfold cross-validation predictive power of the model were 0.91 and 0.75 as area under the curve (AUC) values, respectively. Hotspots of invasive plants were found in the Seoul metropolitan area, Daegu metropolitan city, Chungcheongbuk-do Province, southwest shore, and Jeju Island. Hotspots were generally found where the highest maximum summer temperature, winter precipitation, and road density were observed. In contrast, seasonality in temperature, annual temperature range, precipitation during summer, and distance to rivers and the sea were negatively correlated to hotspots. The model showed that functional traits accounted for 55% of the variance explained by environmental factors. Species with a higher specific leaf area were found where temperature seasonality was low. Taller species were associated with a larger annual temperature range. Heavier seed mass was associated with a maximum summer temperature > 29 °C.>


This study showed that hotspots contained 2.1 times more alien plants on average than cold-spots. Hotspots of invasive plants tended to appear under less stressful climate conditions, such as low fluctuations in temperature and precipitation. In addition, disturbance by anthropogenic factors and water flow positively affected hotspots. These results were consistent with previous reports on the ruderal and competitive strategies of invasive plants, not the stress-tolerant strategy. Our results supported that the functional traits of alien plants are closely related to the ecological strategies of plants by shaping the response of species to various environmental filters. Therefore, to control alien plants effectively, the occurrence of disturbed sites where alien plants can grow in large quantities should be minimized, and the waterfront of rivers must be managed.

Keywords: Invasive alien plants; Functional traits; Habitat suitability; Hot spot; Species distribution model

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Journal of Ecology and Environment

pISSN 2287-8327 eISSN 2288-1220