Geographical, socioeconomic, and ecological determinants of exotic plant naturalization in the United States: insights and updates from improved data
Previous studies on alien species establishment in the United States and around the world have drastically improved our understanding of the patterns of species naturalization, biological invasions, and underlying mechanisms. Meanwhile, relevant new data have been added and the data quality has significantly increased along with the consistency of related concepts and terminology that are being developed. Here using new and/or improved data on the native and exotic plant richness and many socioeconomic and physical variables at the state level in the United States, we attempt to test whether previously discovered patterns still hold, particularly how native and exotic species are related and what are the dominant factors controlling the plant naturalization. We found that, while the number of native species is largely controlled by natural factors such as area and temperature, exotic species and exotic fraction are predominantly influenced by social factors such as human population. When domestically introduced species were included, several aspects in earlier findings were somewhat altered and additional insights regarding the mechanisms of naturalization could be achieved. With increased data availability, however, a greater challenge ahead appears to be how many and which variables to include in analyses.