The global distribution of bamboos: assessing correlates of introduction and invasion

Susan Canavan*, David M. Richardson, Vernon Visser, Johannes J. Le Roux, Maria S. Vorontsova, John R.U. Wilson

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

128 Citations (Scopus)
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There is a long history of species being moved around the world by humans. These introduced species can provide substantial benefits, but they can also have undesirable consequences. We explore the importance of human activities on the processes of species dissemination and potential invasions using the Poaceae subfamily Bambusoideae ('bamboos'), a group that contains taxa that are widely utilised and that are often perceived as weedy. We (1) compiled an inventory of bamboo species and their current distributions; (2) determined which species have been introduced and become invasive outside their native ranges; and (3) explored correlates of introduction and invasion. Distribution data were collated from Kew's GrassBase, the Global Biodiversity Information Facility and other online herbarium information sources. Our list comprised 1662 species in 121 genera, of which 232 (14 %) have been introduced beyond their native ranges. Twelve (0.7 % of species) were found to be invasive. A nonrandom selection of bamboos have been introduced and become invasive. Asiatic species in particular have been widely introduced. There was a clear over-representation of introduced species in the genera Bambusa and Phyllostachys which also contain most of the listed invasive species. The introduction of species also correlated with certain traits: taxa with larger culm dimensions were significantly more likely to have been moved to new areas; and those with many cultivars had a higher rate of dissemination and invasion. It is difficult to determine whether the patterns of introduction and invasion are due simply to differences in propagule pressure, or whether humans have deliberately selected inherently invasive taxa. In general, we suggest that human usage is a stronger driver of introductions and invasions in bamboos than in other taxa that have been well studied. It is likely that as bamboos are used more widely, the number and impact of invasions will increase unless environmental risks are carefully managed.

Original languageEnglish
Article numberplw078
Pages (from-to)1-18
Number of pages18
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2017
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Copyright the Author(s) 2016. Version archived for private and non-commercial use with the permission of the author/s and according to publisher conditions. For further rights please contact the publisher.


  • bamboo
  • Bambusoideae
  • biological invasions
  • cultivars
  • introduced species
  • invasive species
  • Poaceaes


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