Natural and human dimensions of a quasi-wild species:the case of kudzu
The human dimensions of biotic invasion are generally poorly understood, even among the most familiar invasive species. Kudzu (Pueraria montana (Lour.) Merr.) is a prominent invasive plant and an example of quasi-wild species, which has experienced repeated introduction, cultivation, and escape back to the wild. Here, we review a large body of primary scientific and historic records spanning thousands of years to characterize the complex relationships among kudzu, its natural enemies, and humans, and provide a synthesis and conceptual model relevant to the ecology and management of quasi-wild invasive species. We documented over 350, mostly insect, natural enemy species and their impacts on kudzu in its native East Asian range. These natural enemies play a minor role in limiting kudzu in its native range, rarely generating severe impacts on populations of wild kudzu. We identified a number of significant influences of humans including dispersal, diverse cultural selection, and facilitation through disturbances, which catalyzed the expansion and exuberance of kudzu. On the other hand, harvest by humans appears to be the major control mechanism in its native areas. Humans thus have a complex relationship with kudzu. They have acted as both friend and foe, affecting the distribution and abundance of kudzu in ways that vary across its range and over time. Our conceptual model of kudzu emphasizes the importance of multiple human dimensions in shaping the biogeography of a species and illustrates how kudzu and other quasi-wild species are more likely to be successful invaders.