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Quantifying invasion degree by alien plants species in Reunion Island

Fenouillas P., Amy E., Bracco I., Dafreville S., Gosset M., Ingrassia F., Lavergne C., Lequette B., Notter J.C., Pausé J.M., Payet G., Payet N., Picot F., Poungavanon N., Strasberg D., Thomas H., Triolo J., Turquet V., Rouget M.. 2021. Austral Ecology, 46 (7) : p. 1125-1137.

DOI: 10.1111/aec.13048

The largest area of intact vegetation in the Mascarene's archipelago is found on Reunion Island, but the remaining natural areas are under threats. Biological invasions are one of the main threats to biodiversity loss on this island and globally worldwide. This study aimed to quantify invasion degree by alien plants species in Reunion Island. This work was possible thanks to a large partnership between researchers and managers. All existing spatial data on invasion pattern were combined and completed by expert knowledge to develop the first 250 x 250 m map of invasion degree at the island scale. To fill the gaps where no field survey data or expert knowledge was available, we used a Random Forest model using nine climatic, landscape and anthropogenic variables. This model also provides a preliminary assessment of drivers of invasion at Reunion Island. Results showed that 85% of the extant native vegetation was invaded in different proportions; 38% are slightly invaded, 26% moderately invaded and 22% very heavily invaded. Despite the high levels of invasion in some places, more than 50% of the extant vegetation is not invaded or slightly invaded. Most of the invaded areas are located in the lowland and in the leeward coast although alien plants invade all types of vegetation from the coast to the top of the island. These results highlight a clear increase in the distribution of alien species over time. This study constitutes a key first step for about the ongoing prioritisation of management interventions on Reunion Island.

Mots-clés : espèce envahissante; cartographie; données spatiales; modélisation environnementale; organisme nuisible; distribution des populations; réunion

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