, Volume 14, Issue 9, pp 1765-1778
Date: 15 Mar 2012

When should exotic forest plantation tree species be considered as an invasive threat and how should we treat them?

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Abstract

The area of forests planted with exotic tree species is increasing worldwide in order to fulfill various economic and environmental demands. Numerous species currently used in forest plantations are considered to be invasive in many parts of the world. Exotic plantation tree species are endowed with a series of life-history traits that are characteristic of invasive species: easy establishment, fast growth, high propagule pressure, and low or intermediate shade tolerance. In addition, plantation forestry presents many features that increase ecosystem invasibility, including a regime of frequent and intensive canopy disturbances, a dense network of roads and trails with continuous traffic, and wide plantation areas. Exotic trees planted for production purposes have strong direct positive economic impacts on the local and national economies of many countries, often leading to notable conflicts of interest when the species becomes invasive, as well as to negative impacts on the ecosystem. Studies and management programs mainly focus on Pinus and Acacia, which are used as model species. Complementary management strategies have been established to control these species at different stages of the invasion process. Knowledge gained is useful to predict problems in other regions of the world with the same species and to guide research or management actions on other problematic but less studied tree species.