, Volume 183, Issue 2, pp 361-376
Date: 07 Apr 2006

Shrub invasion into subalpine vegetation: implications for restoration of the native ecosystem

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Abstract

The ability of plant communities to recover after non-native species invasion will depend upon the nature of their soil seed bank and seed rain characteristics. This study assessed changes in the soil seed bank and seed rain associated with the invasion of the non-native shrub Cytisus scoparius in subalpine vegetation. Soil seed bank and seed rain composition, density and richness were investigated at three areas of different stages of invasion: (i) recent (8–10 years), (ii) mature (15–16 years) and (iii) long-term (25 years). There were few changes in seed bank composition or richness regardless of invasion stage. By contrast, the seed rain composition, richness and density was substantially different within long-invaded areas. Very few seeds were able to colonise the dense barrier characteristic of larger, more mature C. scoparius stands. Some prominent herbs from the native vegetation were under-represented or absent from the seed bank, both in invaded and uninvaded areas. Laboratory germination experiments demonstrated that most native species germinate easily, which may imply a transient seed bank, rather than a persistent one. The majority of herbaceous and shrub species were capable of resprouting vegetatively. Therefore, regeneration appeared more reliant on the bud and tuber bank than a persistent soil seed bank. The dominance of graminoid species and C. scoparius rather than other herbaceous, shrub or tree species suggests that the regenerating vegetation will be dominated by grass species and/or C. scoparius. Hence, in areas where long-invaded C.␣scoparius stands are present the recovery of native subalpine vegetation maybe difficult. Recovery may only be possible through wind dispersal from the surrounding intact vegetation or through actively reseeding the area. This study highlights the importance of early intervention in invasive species management.