Vilà, Montserrat and Siamantziouras, Akis Stavros D. and Brundu, Giuseppe Antonio Domenico and Camarda, Ignazio and Lambdon, Philip and Médail, Frédéric and Moragues, Eva and Suehs, Carey Meredith and Traveset, Anna and Troumbis, Andreas Y. and Hulme, Philip E. (2008) Widespread resistance of Mediterranean island ecosystems to the establishment of three alien species. Diversity and Distributions, Vol. 14 (5), p. 839-851. eISSN 1472-4642. Article.
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Although some invasive plants are cosmopolitan, not all ecosystems are invaded to the same degree. Yet there is little experimental work on how ecosystem resistance to invasion at the establishment phase differs among ecosystems. We conducted two field sowing experiments in two consecutive years to examine establishment of the deciduous tree Ailanthus altissima, the succulent subshrub Carpobrotus spp. and the annual geophyte Oxalis pes-caprae in coastal dunes, shrublands and oldfields in more than 200 sites across six Mediterranean Basin islands differing in climatic conditions and local species richness. Establishment success (i.e. percentage of plots with at least one seedling) and rates (i.e. seedling to sown seed ratio) were low, especially for Ailanthus even when accounting for differences in seed viability. Oxalis was capable of producing a new cohort of seedlings the year following planting. By contrast, all Ailanthus seedlings and half the Carpobrotus seedlings died following the first summer. Differences in establishment success and rates among ecosystems were species-, island- and year-dependent. Differences in precipitation and mean temperature were associated with differences in establishment rates across sites. Establishment rates tended to be positively correlated with cumulative precipitation and negatively with mean Ta. Unexpectedly, native species richness was not a good predictor of seedling establishment, except for higher Oxalis establishment success in species rich habitats. By conducting field sowing tests at multiple sites across a region we found that except for Oxalis, Mediterranean island ecosystems are quite resistant to invader establishment. These results suggest that differences in the degree of invasion between ecosystems and islands might be more dependent upon the influence of invasion event factors (e.g. propagule pressure) or factors acting at a later life-history stages rather than differences in the resistance imposed by ecosystems to invader recruitment. Moreover, our results support the notion that in Mediterranean ecosystems invasions are highly idiosyncratic events and strongly dependent on water availability conditions.
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