Vegetation classification enables inferring mesoscale spatial variation in plant invasibility

Yue M. Li, Brett Stauffer, Jim Malusa

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Large-scale control of invasive plants can benefit strongly from reliable assessment of spatial variation in plant invasibility. With this knowledge, limited management resources can be concentrated in areas of high invasion risk. We assessed the influence of spatial environments and proximity to roads on the invasibility of African mustard (Brassica tournefortii Gouan) over the 280,000-ha Barry M. Goldwater Range West in southwestern Arizona, USA. We used presence/absence data of B. tournefortii acquired from a vegetation classification project, in which lands were mapped to the level of vegetation subassociations. Logistic regression models suggested that spatial environments represented by the subassociations, not proximity to roads, represented the only factor significantly explaining B. tournefortii presence. We then used the best model to predict B. tournefortii invasibility in each subassociation. This prediction indicates management strategy should differ between the western part and the central to eastern part of the range. The western range is a large spatial continuum with intermediate to high invasion risk, vulnerable to an untethered spread of B. tournefortii. Controlling efforts should focus on preventing existing local populations from further expansion. The central and eastern ranges are a mosaic varying strongly in invasion risk. Control efforts can take advantage of natural invasion barriers and further reduce connectivity through removal of source populations connected with other high-risk locations via roads and other dispersal corridors. We suggest our approach as one effective way to combine vegetation classification and plant invasion assessment to manage complex landscapes over large ranges, especially when this approach is used through an iterative prediction-validation process to achieve adaptive management of invasive plants.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)161-168
Number of pages8
JournalInvasive Plant Science and Management
Issue number3
StatePublished - Sep 1 2019


  • Brassica tournefortii
  • Sahara mustard
  • U.S. National Vegetation Classification
  • large scale
  • plant invasion
  • spatial heterogeneity
  • weed management

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Plant Science


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