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Modelling the impact of Hieracium spp. on protected areas in Australia under future climates

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Anthropogenically-induced climate change is one of the most important global threats to biodiversity. Understanding its impact on the distribution of exotic plant species is critical for developing effective adaptation and management strategies. However, there is insufficient information currently available on the biodiversity at risk from 1) exotic plant invasions, 2) climate change, and 3) the interaction between these two major threats, to develop such strategies. We use ecological niche models as a first step to identify zones inside and outside Australian protected areas that may be most at risk from invasions of three species of Hieracium (hawkweeds) under current and future (2030 and 2070) climate scenarios, should current control and eradication methods fail. These perennial herbs are native to Europe and invasive to New Zealand and North America. Naturalised in Australia, hawkweeds threaten native tussock grasslands and the grazing industry, and have been placed on the National Alert List. Using eight ecological niche models currently available in the software package BIOMOD, we found that these species have yet to realize the extent of their climatic distribution under present day climate in Australia. As climate change accelerates, the climatic range of hawkweeds was projected to contract overall. However, much of the Australian Alps, which contain large contiguous tracts of reserves and many endemic species, will continue to retain climatically suitable areas for hawkweeds through to 2070. These results emphasise the need for ongoing monitoring as well as focused control to minimize the likelihood of hawkweeds realizing their invasive potential in protected areas and beyond.
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Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: October 1, 2009

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