Piper aduncum is a neotropical invasive species which has spread throughout Papua New Guinea over the past three decades. It has become a most successful alien woody plant in New Guinea, occurring from sea level up to 2000 m a.s.l. The species prefers initial stages of forest succession and is particularly common in recently abandoned gardens representative of a system of swidden agriculture. It often attains high cover, suppresses other pioneer species and becomes the absolute dominant species in these habitats. The species is now also spreading into naturally disturbed habitats far from direct human influence, such as natural tree-fall gaps, landslides and frequently flooded stream banks. It has, however, never been found in a closed primary forest. The species germinates from faeces of mammal and bird species, and we conclude that dispersal through endozoochory contributes to this species’ extraordinary success in Papua New Guinea. A similar invasion behaviour has been documented over a large geographic area, from Malaysia to Fiji. Piper aduncum has attributes which are common amongst successful invasive species: (1) a large native geographic range; (2) aggressively colonizing disturbed habitats in its native area; (3) relatively small seeds; (4) a short juvenile period; (5) a large seed production every year.
Abbreviations: CCA = Canonical Correspondence Analysis; PG = Papua New Guinea; RDA = Redundancy Analysis.