Changes in the spatio-temporal patterns and habitat preferences of Ambrosia artemisiifolia during its invasion of Austria.

Franz Essl 1 , Stefan Dullinger 2 & Ingrid Kleinbauer 2


  1. Federal Environment Agency, Spittelauer Lände 5, A-1090 Vienna, Austria
  2. Vienna Institute for Nature Conservation and Analyses, Giessergasse 6/7, A-1090 Vienna, Austria



The invasion of Austria by the alien vascular plant Ambrosia artemisiifolia (Asteraceae) is analysed in detail, based on a survey of available records. In total, 697 records were collated. The first record for Austria is a herbarium specimen collected in 1883. Up to the end of the 1940s, records were rare and only of casual populations resulting from long-distance dispersal. Since the 1950s, the number of records has increased exponentially, and more than one third of all records (242) were collected in the last 5-year period (2001–2005) included in the survey. The first naturalized population was recorded in 1952, nearly 70 years after the first record of a casual population. Recently, the number of naturalized populations increased considerably faster than that of casual populations. Several pathways (contaminated crops and bird seed, agricultural machines, transport of soil) have contributed to the high levels of propagule pressure and this successful invasion. Ambrosia artemisiifolia has undergone a niche expansion during the invasion process. Up to 1950, most records were from sites along railway routes, whereas in the period 1950–1974 itwas mostly ruderal habitats, not associated with traffic infrastructure, which were colonized. Since the 1970s, records from roadsides have increased strongly and now dominate. Fields were colonized first in the 1970s and since then have gained in importance. The distribution of naturalized populations was related to environmental and climatic variables by means of a generalized linear model. Their distribution in Austria is closely related to temperature. Landscape variables, describing aspects of habitat availability (topography, land use, major street density) also significantly explain the current distribution of A. artemisiifolia. Suitable habitats currently occur mainly in the eastern and southeastern lowlands. We conclude that global warming will disproportionally enhance the invasion success of A. artemisiifolia in Austria, even if there is only a slight increase in temperature, as significant areas of agricultural land in Austria are currently only slightly too cool for A. artemisiifolia. The widespread occurrence of this species will have serious consequences for human health and agriculture.


climate change, human health, introduction history, invasion, naturalization, niche expansion, species distribution models, spread

How to cite

Essl F., Dullinger S. & Kleinbauer I. (2009) Changes in the spatio-temporal patterns and habitat preferences of Ambrosia artemisiifolia during its invasion of Austria. – Preslia 81: 119133