Certain plant traits are known to facilitate invasions, including early reproduction and rapid growth rate, while the general risk of invasion has been shown to increase with changing climates. Interspecies hybridization may also pose a threat, and as 16,000 plant species- many of which alien- are cultivated for ornamental purposes in Europe alone, knowing how future climates affects this risk is crucial.
By studying a large group alien ornamentals not naturalized in Europe, but established outside their native range somewhere else in the world, researchers created species distribution models using GBIF-mediated occurrences for both non-native ornamentals and native/naturalized congeners (i.e. belonging to same genus). Projecting these into future climates, the authors compared the distributions of alien ornamentals and their native congeners, finding that mean geographical overlap is likely to decrease under future climatic conditions.
These surprising results show that while warming climates may increase risk of naturalization of some alien ornamentals, hybridization between future invaders and resident species appears less likely to occur.