The Weed Risk Assessment (WRA) has become an effective tool in predicting invasiveness of exotic plant species. In studies testing the WRA, exotic plant species are usually divided into major weeds, minor weeds and non-weeds. However, these divisions are qualitative, as the categories are assigned by experts. Many studies searching for plant traits that are indicative of plant invasiveness use quantitative estimates to measure invasiveness. We compared how quantitative and qualitative estimates of invasiveness may relate to WRA scores. As quantitative estimates we used regional frequency (spread), change in regional frequency and local dominance of naturalized exotic plant species in The Netherlands. To obtain a qualitative estimate we determined if the exotic plant species occurred on a black list in neighbouring regions. We related WRA scores of the exotic plant species to these qualitative and quantitative estimates of invasiveness. Our results reveal that the WRA predicted the qualitative (black list) estimate more accurately than the quantitative (dominance and spread) ones. The black list estimate matches with the overall impact of exotic species, which is assumed to incorporate regional spread, local dominance and noxiousness. Therefore, the WRA predicts the noxiousness component, but to a lesser extent the spatial components of impact of exotic species. On the other hand, studies that use regional spread and other quantitative estimates of invasiveness tend not to include the noxiousness component of impact. We propose that our analyses may also help to further solve the recent debate on whether or not performing research on exotic species.
Speek, T. A. A., Davies, J. A. R., Lotz, L. A. P., & Van der Putten, W. H. (2013). Testing the Australian Weed Risk Assessment with different proxies for invasiveness. Biological Invasions, 15(6), 1319-1330. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10530-012-0368-9