German Federal Agency for Nature Conservation (BfN)


Animal, plants and fungi

Distribution centres of neophytes (alien plant species) in Germany: today and projected for climate change

Climate change facilitating spread of alien plant species

Most alien plant species (neophytes) are common to urban conurbations and large river valleys. Neophytes will spread further in future as a result of climate change and the expected rise in temperatures. The spread of problem species must be systematically combated to prevent undesired ecological impacts.

Alien plant species (neophytes) are mainly concentrated today in urban conurbations, near major transport axes and in large river valleys. Reasons for this include excess temperatures in such places, a high reintroduction rate due to diverse cultivation, and the ease with which seeds can spread along transport infrastructure and rivers.

Neophytes benefiting from climate change

The spread of alien species is influenced by climate change. Under current climatic conditions, the current occurrence of neophytes and the modelled occurrence of 30 invasive and potentially invasive neophytes show a very similar structure and distribution. With the expected temperature rise, the number of areas capable of colonisation will increase significantly for all modelled neophytes.

Prevention the best protection against undesired ecological impacts of neophytes

Climate change and the ongoing growth of trade and travel require rigorous application of the precautionary principle in the future management of intentionally or unintentionally imported species, as these can have undesired ecological impacts. This contrasts with the climate-induced extension of the natural range of species not previously indigenous to the country - mostly from Southern Europe - which in conservation terms is a necessary adaptation process. It is thus necessary to distinguish between enabling natural diffusion and inward migration processes, which extend the existing range of species, and preventing undesired human introduction. The objective under the Federal Nature Conservation Act (BNatSchG) is to prevent the introduction of problem species and, if this is unsuccessful, to take rigorous countermeasures when such species first begin to spread.