Csecserits et al. Tree plantations are hot-spots of plant invasion (2016)

Anikó Csecserits*, Zoltán Botta-Dukát, György Kröel-Dulay, Barbara Lhotsky, Gábor Ónodi, Tamás Rédei, Katalin Szitár, Melinda Halassy
Tree plantations are hot-spots of plant invasion in a landscape with heterogeneous land-use
Agriculture, Ecosystems and Environment 226 (2016) 88–98

Invasion of alien plant species is one of the main reasons for biodiversity loss in terrestrial ecosystems.
However, alien plant species are not evenly distributed in the landscape. We studied which factors
determine the actual level of neophyte invasion in a landscape with heterogeneous land-use and which
habitats are the most infected. Since neophyte species with different life-forms can respond differently to
the factors determining the invasion, species groups of annual, herbaceous perennial and woody
neophytes were also analyzed separately.
The study was conducted within the
field site network of the Kiskun-LTER program (Hungary), in
16 sites of 5 km

5 km. Fifteen habitat types were distinguished belonging to
five major land-use/land
cover types (agricultural land, abandoned agricultural land, tree plantation, semi-natural grassland and
semi-natural forest). Present and past land-use, landscape composition and environmental variables
were included as factors with a potential impact on the level of invasion.
The most important factor determining invasion level was present habitat type, followed by the past
habitat type of the location and landscape context. Tree plantations, agricultural habitats and recently
abandoned agricultural habitats had the highest level of invasion.
As expected, annual neophytes were most abundant in agricultural habitats, while perennial
herbaceous neophytes were most abundant in old-fields and plantations, and woody neophytes in tree
plantations. Past agricultural land-use was reflected in the higher levels of invasion of annuals and
perennials, and past forestry practice resulted in higher levels of invasion of woody neophytes. In a
landscape with a higher proportion of tree plantations, not only the tree plantations, but primary
woodland patches also showed higher levels of invasion by woody neophyte species.
Our results indicate the importance of present and past land-use in plant invasion and suggest that tree
plantations are hot-spots of plant invasion and threaten the remnants of semi-natural vegetation.

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