Weeds in a warmer world: predicting the impact of climate change on Australia’s alien plant species using MaxEnt

Peter D. WilsonA, Paul O. DowneyB, Michelle LeishmanA, Rachael GallagherA, Lesley HughesA and Jessica O’DonnellA

A Department of Biological Sciences, Macquarie University, New South Wales 2109, Australia.

B Pest Management Unit, Parks and Wildlife, New South Wales Department of Environment and Climate Change, PO Box 1967, Hurstville, New South Wales 1481, Australia.


Australia is now host to many thousands of introduced plant species, and about 3000 of these have established self-sustaining populations in the wild. Of these, approximately 450 are classified as invasive weeds nationally or regionally, and are being targeted with control measures. Two questions arise in the context of climate change: what changes might occur in the distribution of the 450 species known to be highly invasive, and which species in the pool of 3000 might emerge to become future serious pests. We are applying an advanced modelling tool, MaxEnt, to provide a strategic overview of a large portion of the 450 highly invasive species. Preliminary results suggest differing responses of weed species in northern and southern Australia linked to predicted major shifts in rainfall pattern.


Plant Protection Quarterly (2009) 24 (3) 84-87.