, Volume 157, Issue 1, pp 23-35

The effect of seeds of exotic species transported via horse dung on vegetation along trail corridors

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Abstract

It has been suggested that exotic species will colonize within forests more frequently by the continual introduction of seeds through horse dung deposited along trails. Whether or not these exotic species have the ability to spread into and establish in the forest interior has been disputed. To address this, horse dung and soil samples were collected from trails during Autumn 1994 and Summer 1995 from three areas in southern Illinois, USA open to recreational horse travel. In addition, deer dung samples were collected from each of the study areas. Vegetation data were collected from each of the trail systems as well as from a trail along which horse travel was prohibited. The density of vascular plants in 0.25 m2 quadrats placed at varying distances from the trail center to 5 m into the forest interior were recorded. Finally, dung samples were placed in situ along horse trails at one site to examine seedling germination in natural conditions. While 23 exotic species germinated from samples of horse dung placed out in a greenhouse, only one of these exotic species was also found in trail plots (Kummerowia striata). Similarly, while there were empirically more exotic species found along the trails allowing horse travel than there were on the trail lacking horse travel, the relative importance of those species was negligible along both trails. These results suggest that the emigration of exotic species via horse dung does not pose an immediate threat to the plant communities adjacent to trails in these forest systems. Nevertheless, the large number of exotic species in horse dung reflects the constant threat to any system from these species. Care must be taken, when allowing horseback use in areas, to anticipate invasion by exotic species from horse dung