Use of risk-assessment models that can predict the naturalization and invasion of non-native woody plants is a potentially beneficial approach for protecting human and natural environments. This study validates the power and accuracy offour risk-assessment models previously tested in Iowa, and examines the performance of a new random forest modeling approach. The random forest model was fitted with the same data used to develop the four earlier risk-assessment models. The validation of all five models was based on a new set of 11 naturalizing and 18 non-naturalizing species in Iowa. The fitted random forest model had a high classification rate (92.0%), no biologically significant errors (accepting a plant that has a high risk of naturalizing), and few horticulturally limiting errors (rejecting a plant that has a low risk of naturalizing) (8.7%). Classification rates for validation of all five models ranged from 62.1 to 93.1%. Horticulturally limiting errors for the four models previously developed for Iowa ranged from 11.1 to 38.5%, and biologically significant errors from 4.2 to 18.5%. Because of the small sample size, few classification and error rate results were significantly different from the original tests of the models. Overall, the random forest model shows promise for powerful and accurate risk-assessment, but mixed results for the other models suggest a need for further refinement.
Available at: http://works.bepress.com/mark_widrlechner/45/