A subcontinental view of forest plant invasions
Over the last few decades, considerable attention has focused on small-scale studies of invasive plants and invaded systems. Unfortunately, small scale studies rarely provide comprehensive insight into the complexities of biological invasions at macroscales. Systematic and repeated monitoring of biological invasions at broad scales are rare. In this report, we highlight a unique invasive plant database from the national Forest Inventory and Analysis (FIA) program of the United States Forest Service. We demonstrate the importance and capability of this subcontinental-wide database by showcasing several critical macroscale invasion patterns that have emerged from its initial analysis: (1) large portion of the forests systems (39%) in the United States are impacted by invasive plants, (2) forests in the eastern United States harbor more invasive species than the western regions, (3) human land-use legacies at regional to national scales may drive large-scale invasion patterns. This accumulated dataset, which continues to grow in temporal richness with repeated measurements, will allow the understanding of invasion patterns and processes at multi-spatial and temporal scales. Such insights are not possible from smaller-scale studies, illustrating the benefit that can be gained by investing in the development of regional to continental-wide invasion monitoring programs elsewhere.
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