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Evidence of ecological niche shift in Rhododendron ponticum (L.) in Britain: hybridization as a possible cause of rapid niche expansion

Manzoor, S. A., Griffiths, G., Obiakara, M. C., Esparza-Estrada, C. E. and Lukac, M. ORCID: (2020) Evidence of ecological niche shift in Rhododendron ponticum (L.) in Britain: hybridization as a possible cause of rapid niche expansion. Ecology and Evolution, 10 (4). pp. 2040-2050. ISSN 2045-7758

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To link to this item DOI: 10.1002/ece3.6036


Biological invasions threaten global biodiversity and natural resources. Anticipating future invasions is central to strategies for combating the spread of invasive species. Ecological niche models are thus increasingly used to predict potential distribution of invasive species. In this study, we compare ecological niches of Rhododendron ponticum in its native (Iberian Peninsula) and invasive (Britain) ranges. Here we test the conservation of ecological niche between invasive and native populations of R. ponticum using principal component analysis, niche dynamics analysis, and MaxEnt-based reciprocal niche modelling. We show that niche overlap between native and invasive populations is very low, leading us to the conclusion that the two niches are not equivalent and are dissimilar.We conclude that R. ponticum occupies novel environmental conditions in Britain. However, the evidence of niche shift presented in this study should be treated with caution because of non-analogue climatic conditions between native and invasive ranges and small population size in the native range. We then frame our results in the context of contradicting genetic evidence on possible hybridization of this invasive species in Britain. We argue that the existing contradictory studies on whether hybridization caused niche shift in R. ponticum are not sufficient to prove or disprove this hypothesis. However, we present a series of theoretical arguments which indicate that hybridization is a likely cause of the observed niche expansion of R. ponticum in Britain.

Item Type:Article
Divisions:Interdisciplinary centres and themes > Soil Research Centre
Life Sciences > School of Agriculture, Policy and Development > Department of Sustainable Land Management > Centre for Agri-environmental Research (CAER)
ID Code:88484


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