Are exotic plants good for pollinators?

Answer quickly. Do you think most pollinators can use exotic plants, and hence will probably benefit from them? My gut feeling was to answer yes, but I am not convinced after seriously reviewing the available evidence.

A while ago I accepted to write a book chapter on the interface between behaviour and invasive species. I really like the idea that pollinators behaviour mediates its responses to environmental changes, including plant invasions. Hence, the main point of the book chapter is that “not all pollinators respond equally”. Yes, the idea of winners and losers of the global change is becoming a leitmotiv in my research.

Doing a book chapter allowed me to do a review, an opinion paper, and throw in some re-analysis of old data for supporting  my claims all in one. I am pretty happy about the result because it crystallise a lot of thoughts I had since my PhD and identifies important knowledge gaps.

If you want to read a draft before the book gets published, you can find a pre-print here: Invasive plants as novel food resources, the pollinators’ perspective.


is_invasive( ) got a new best friend: is_native( )

A while ago I did a function to check if a species was among the worst invaders. I am really happy this function was used and ropensci put it in a package. However the function does not tell you if a species is exotic in a particular place, and this is what most people want to know. Scott Chamberlain found a couple of other resources to get invasive species lists and we where discussing where to find those reliable, complete “lists of exotic species per region”, but we where thinking the problem from the wrong approach.

Exotic species lists will be always incomplete and hard to maintain. For most research questions the reverse question is also suited. Instead of “is exotic?”, you can ask “is not native?” Lists of natives species are easier to get and stable through time. Moreover, It conveys the message that any non native species is potentially harmful, rather than restricting to “worst invaders” or “known exotic species”.

So here it is. Its implemented for animals and plants in the US (using ITIS database) and for Plants in Europe (Using Flora Europaea)*. You can use it with the following R code:


#make a species list
sp <- c("Lavandula stoechas", "Carpobrotus edulis", "Rhododendron ponticum", "Alkanna lutea", "Anchusa arvensis")

#ask in which countries the first species is native by querying in Flora Europaea
?fe_native #to see the help page.

#use sapply for querying all species at once
sapply(sp, fe_native, simplify = FALSE)

#ask if the first species is native in a particular region
is_native(sp[1], where = "Islas_Baleares", region = "europe")
?is_native #to see the help page and country names used

#or all species at once
sapply(sp, is_native, where = "Continental US", region = "america")
sapply(sp, is_native, where = "Islas_Baleares", region = "europe")

#for america I am calling itis_native function from taxize package.

The function will be available from ropensci/traits soon, and probably Scott will make it faster and more usable. Let me know if it breaks with any species or if the help pages needs clarifications and I can try to fix it.

*If you know/have a list of all native species for your region of interest, we can add it.