Potential distribution and environmental threat of Pueraria lobata
CLIMEX, Damage niche, Invasive alien plants, Kudzu, management
Pueraria lobata (kudzu) is an invasive weed originating from East Asia. Local infestations have been recently observed in Switzerland and northern Italy; however, the potential for P. lobata to spread and to become abundant and damaging in the Alpine countries is not known. The aim of this study was to project the potential distribution of P. lobata under current climate in Switzerland, Austria and Slovenia and parts of northern Italy using the ecoclimatic model CLIMEX. In addition, areas at risk were identified where P. lobata may occur as a strong and aggressive competitor. This was derived from the plants’ distribution and climatic requirements in the south-eastern United States where the heaviest infestations occur. Projections show that 60.84% of the total land area of northern Italy, followed by 47.08% of Slovenia, 21.01% of Austria and only 1.97% of Switzerland are climatically suitable. P. lobata may become a troublesome weed due to very favourable climatic conditions only in some parts of northern Italy and Slovenia. In climatically suitable areas, any occurrence of the plant should be carefully observed. In infested and highly climatically suitable areas, there is a need for strategic management to prevent further spread of P. lobata.