Biodiversity & Conservation

, Volume 15, Issue 7, pp 2197–2215

Facilitations between the Introduced Nitrogen-fixing Tree, Robinia pseudoacacia, and Nonnative Plant Species in the Glacial Outwash Upland Ecosystem of Cape Cod, MA

  • Betsy Von Holle
  • Katherine. A. Joseph
  • Erin F. Largay
  • Rebecca G. Lohnes

DOI: 10.1007/s10531-004-6906-8

Cite this article as:
Von Holle, B., Joseph, K.A., Largay, E.F. et al. Biodivers Conserv (2006) 15: 2197. doi:10.1007/s10531-004-6906-8


Robinia pseudoacacia, a nitrogen-fixing, clonal tree species native to the central Appalachian and Ozark Mountains, is considered to be one of the top 100 worldwide woody plant invaders. We initiated this project to determine the impact of black locust (Robinia pseudoacacia) on an upland coastal ecosystem and to estimate the spread of this species within Cape Cod National Seashore (CCNS). We censused 20 × 20 m plots for vegetation cover and environmental characteristics in the center of twenty randomly-selected Robinia pseudoacacia stands. Additionally, paired plots were surveyed under native overstory stands, comprised largely of pitch pine (Pinus rigida) and mixed pitch pine–oak (Quercus velutina and Quercus alba) communities. These native stands were located 20 m from the edge of the sampled locust stand and had similar land use histories. To determine the historical distribution of black locust in CCNS, we digitized and georeferenced historical and current aerial photographs of randomly-selected stands. Ordination analyses revealed striking community-level differences between locust and pine–oak stands in their immediate vicinity. Understory nonnative species richness and abundance values were significantly higher under Robinia stands than under the paired native stands. Additionally, animal-dispersed plant species tended to occur in closer stands, suggesting their spread between locust stands. Robinia stand area significantly decreased from the 1970’s to 2002, prompting us to recommend no management action of black locust and a monitoring program and possible removal of associated animal-dispersed species. The introduction of a novel functional type (nitrogen-fixing tree) into this xeric, nutrient-poor, upland forested ecosystem resulted in ‘islands of invasion’ within this resistant system.


Black locustNonnative speciesPlant dispersalRobinia pseudoacaciaSpecies diversity

Copyright information

© Springer 2005

Authors and Affiliations

  • Betsy Von Holle
    • 1
  • Katherine. A. Joseph
    • 2
  • Erin F. Largay
    • 3
  • Rebecca G. Lohnes
    • 4
  1. 1.Harvard ForestHarvard UniversityPetersham
  2. 2.College of Natural Resources, Department of ForestryVirginia Polytechnic University
  3. 3.Yale School of Forestry and Environmental StudiesYale UniversityNew Haven
  4. 4.Department of Ecology and Evolutionary BiologyYale UniversityNew Haven