How on Earth did that get there? Natural and human vectors of aquatic macrophyte global distribution

Tatiana Lobato-de Magalhães, Kevin Murphy, Andrey Efremov, Thomas A. Davidson, Eugenio Molina-Navarro, Kevin A. Wood, Julissa Tapia-Grimaldo, Deborah Hofstra, Hui Fu, Ileana Ortegón-Aznar

Research output: Contribution to journal/Conference contribution in journal/Contribution to newspaperJournal articleResearchpeer-review


No previous study has examined the large-scale distributional drivers of the entire global pool of 3,499 macrophyte species, despite the obvious importance of this for understanding the macroecology of these plants. To assess the hypothesis that natural rather than human-related transfer vectors act as the primary long-distance drivers of global movement of aquatic macrophytes, we analysed current macrophyte species distributions in relation to a set of human-related and natural transfer vectors. Most macrophytes (2,492 species: 71.2% of the global total) are endemic to a single ecozone, and generally lack the various functional adaptations needed for successful long-distance propagule transport. Such traits are, however, common in the 1,007 (28.8%) species native in > 1 ecozone. In total, 779 species (22.3%) are introduced, naturalised or invasive (I species) in one or more ecozones outwith their native range. The proportion of I species varies between ecozones and is best predicted by annual temperature and longitude. A migratory bird transfer vector and climatic variables strongly predict global native macrophyte species occurrence. Some native species of Miocene origin (or older) may have had their world distribution influenced by ancient vicariance events, while inter-ecozone hydrochory and Late Quaternary climate change are also relevant factors influencing a few species.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1515-1542
Number of pages28
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2023


  • Ancient vicariance
  • Anthropochory
  • Invasiveness
  • Long-distance movement
  • Plant distribution
  • Zoochory


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