, Volume 570, Issue 1, pp 257-263

Invasibility of four plant communities in the Llobregat delta (Catalonia, NE of Spain) in relation to their historical stability

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Abstract

Presence and cover of alien plants were analysed in relation to recent naturalness changes (1956–1999) in the Llobregat delta by means of GIS techniques and field surveys. Two land cover maps of 1956 and 1999 were generated by photo-interpretation of orthoimages and they were then reclassified into naturalness classes, defined as the degree of preservation of the pristine state. The resulting naturalness maps were combined in order to obtain a naturalness change map, which was used to design field sampling in four pristine communities: reedbeds, rushbeds, halophilous scrubs and fixed dune communities. Two study areas were selected for each community and three stability regimes (stable, semi-stable and non-stable) obtained from the naturalness change map. Five vegetation inventories were performed on average in each of these areas using the classical sigmatist method. Results showed a negative relationship between stability and invasibility, with several variations between communities. No alien species were found in stable areas of all communities. Alien species number, species percentage and relative cover increased from semi-stable to non-stable regimes in reedbeds and dune communities, indicating that reversion towards the climax reduces opportunities for alien establishment in these communities. In contrast, halophilous habitats such as rushbeds and scrubs did not exhibit significant differences between semi-stable and non-stable plots, probably because saline stress makes their invasion by alien plants difficult, even under disturbance.