Alien plant species distribution in the European Alps: influence of species' climatic requirements
The paper provides the first estimate of the role of abiotic and anthropogenic variables driving both alien plant species richness and composition covering the whole region of the European Alps. To establish and spread in a new area, alien plants must be able to tolerate the prevailing climatic conditions. We therefore tested the hypothesis that climatic requirements modified by bioclimatic origin and elevational distribution influence the distribution of alien plants in the Alps. Despite most alien plant species showing a relatively restricted distribution in the Alps, some regions, however, were already more strongly invaded. Most of these species were adapted to warmer conditions, probably constrained by climatic factors. Environmental heterogeneity was the most important predictor of alien plant species richness, followed by anthropogenic disturbance. Due to the political/artificial delineation of the administrative districts in the Alps (i.e., ignoring ecological conditions) we did not find a direct influence of climatic constraints on alien distribution. Anyway, northern Holarctic alien species showed a broader climatic tolerance and the capability to grow across a wide environmental range. Our results also reveal a strong influence of human pressure on warmer tropical species, despite their low adaptability to anthropogenic habitats. To this aim, managers would profit from early warnings to prevent future invasions. Considering bioclimatic origin, our study can aid in identifying potentially invasive species in a more regional setting.