High spatial resolution mapping identifies habitat characteristics of the invasive vine Antigonon leptopus on St. Eustatius (Lesser Antilles)
On the Caribbean island of St. Eustatius, Coralita (Antigonon leptopus) is an aggressive invasive vine posing major biodiversity conservation concerns. The generation of distribution maps can address these conservation concerns by helping to elucidate the drivers of invasion. We test the use of support vector machines to map the distribution of Coralita on St. Eustatius at high spatial resolution and use this map to identify potential landscape and geomorphological factors associated with Coralita presence. This latter step was performed by comparing the actual distribution of Coralita patches to a random distribution of patches. To train the support vector machine algorithm, we used three vegetation indices and seven texture metrics derived from a 2014 WorldView‐2 image. The resulting map shows that Coralita covered 3.18% of the island in 2014, corresponding to an area of 64 ha. The mapped distribution was highly accurate, with 93.2% overall accuracy (Coralita class producer's accuracy: 76.4%, user's accuracy: 86.2%). Using this classification map, we found that Coralita is not randomly distributed across the landscape, occurring significantly closer to roads and drainage channels, in areas with higher accumulated moisture, and on flatter slopes. Coralita was found more often than expected in grasslands, disturbed forest, and urban areas but was relatively rare in natural forest. These results highlight the ability of high spatial resolution data from sensors such as WorldView‐2 to produce accurate invasive species, providing valuable information for predicting current and future spread risks and for early detection and removal plans.