Assessing potential causes of bamboo invasions

Some species may be better invaders that others, but human usage is strongest driver of introductions and invasions

GBIF-mediated data resources used : 23,218 species occurrences
Oldham's bamboo (Bambusa oldhamii)

Oldham's bamboo (Bambusa oldhamii) by SEDEMA-Veracruz. Photo licensed under CC BY-NC 4.0.

Knowingly or not, humans are responsible for transporting species around the world and introducing them to new regions with beneficial, but also undesirable consequences. As global traffic and travel increase, so does the dissemination of potentially invasive species.

In this study, researchers examine the species inventory, distribution and dissemination of bamboos, a large subfamily of grasses, interesting beyond timber functions because of its versatility and total-plant utilisation. Relying on a variety of sources including GBIF, the researchers compiled a database of 1,662 bamboo species across 122 countries and territories, and identified 14 per cent as having been introduced outside native ranges.

Investigating morphology, they find a number of traits that correlated positively with being introduced, including runner rhizomes, culm diameter and height. Species with more cultivars are also more likely to have been introduced. Finally, and perhaps unsurprisingly, they find strong evidence linking number of introductions with risk of being invasive, suggesting that bamboo invasions are first and foremost a product of human activity rather than species differences.

Canavan S, Richardson DM, Visser V, Roux JJL, Vorontsova MS and Wilson JRU (2016) The global distribution of bamboos: assessing correlates of introduction and invasion. AoB Plants. Oxford University Press (OUP) plw078. Available at: