Plant migration due to winter climate change: range expansion of tropical invasive plants in response to warming winters

Michael J. Osland, Bogdan Chivoiu, Laura C. Feher, Leah L. Dale, Deah Lieurance, Wesley M. Daniel, Jessica E. Spencer

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Scopus citations


Warming winters due to climate change can facilitate the range expansion of invasive non-native species. In the southeastern United States, the frequency and intensity of extreme winter temperatures determines the northern range limits of many tropical organisms including many species of invasive non-native plants. However, the effects of winter climate change on invasive species’ range limits have been understudied. Here, we used temperature and species occurrence data to examine the sensitivity of invasive tropical plant species to freezing temperatures. We also examined the potential for northward range expansion of these species due to winter climate change. From an initial group of 81 invasive plant species selected due to their ability to transform native plant communities, our analyses identify and quantify species-specific temperature thresholds for 40 tropical, cold sensitive species. Future winter warming scenarios indicate that these tropical invasive plant species have the potential for northward range expansion across the southeastern United States in response to small changes in the severity of winter cold temperature extremes. The potential for range expansion is greatest in coastal areas, which typically have warmer temperatures than inland counterparts. Thus, coastal regions are likely to serve as biological invasion hotspots from which invasive species expand into inland areas. The state of Florida has become a global hotspot for biological invasions, with tens of millions of dollars (US) spent annually to control the ecological and societal impacts of invasive plants on publicly held conservation lands. Collectively, our results underscore the need to better anticipate and prepare for the northward range expansion of invasive plants from Florida into the southeastern United States in response to winter climate change.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2813-2830
Number of pages18
JournalBiological Invasions
Issue number9
StatePublished - Sep 2023

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Ecology

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