Introduction history mediates naturalization and invasiveness of cultivated plants

Nicole L. Kinlock, Katharina Dehnen-Schmutz, Franz Essl, Jan Pergl, Petr Pyšek, Holger Kreft, Patrick Weigelt, Qiang Yang, Mark van Kleunen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

16 Citations (Scopus)
41 Downloads (Pure)


Species characteristics and cultivation are both associated with alien plant naturalization and invasiveness. Particular species characteristics are favoured for cultivation, obscuring the relationship between traits and naturalization success. We sought to better understand the drivers of naturalization and invasiveness by analysing relationships with species characteristics and cultivation and by disentangling the direct effects of characteristics from the indirect effects mediated by cultivation.

Great Britain.

Time period
c. 1000–present.

Major taxa studied
Seed plants.

We used a comprehensive dataset of 17,396 alien plant taxa introduced to Great Britain before 1850, a country with one of the most well-documented histories of plant introductions. We integrated this with cultivation data from historical and modern records from botanic gardens and commercial nurseries and with trait data. Accounting for time since introduction, we quantified the influences of cultivation and species characteristics on present-day naturalization and invasiveness in Great Britain.

Larger native range size, earlier flowering, long-lived herbaceous growth form, and outdoor cultivated habitat were all associated with naturalization. However, these relationships between characteristics and naturalization largely reflected cultivation patterns. The indirect, mediating influence of cultivation on naturalization varied among species characteristics, and was relatively strong for growth form and weak for native range size. Cultivation variables, particularly availability in present-day nurseries, best explained invasiveness, while species characteristics had weaker associations.

Main conclusions
Human influence on species introduction and cultivation is associated with increased probability of naturalization and invasiveness, and it has measurable indirect effects by biasing the distribution of species characteristics in the pool of introduced species. Accounting for human cultivation preferences is necessary to make ecological interpretations of the effects of species characteristics on invasion.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1104-1119
Number of pages16
JournalGlobal Ecology and Biogeography
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 25 Mar 2022

Bibliographical note

This is an open access article under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits use, distribution and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


  • Alien plants
  • Cultivation
  • Great Britain
  • Introduction history
  • Invasion
  • Mediation analysis
  • Naturalization
  • Planting frequency
  • Propagule pressure
  • Residence time


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