, Volume 6, Issue 2, pp 193-204

A Characterization of the Non-indigenous Flora of the Azores Archipelago

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Abstract

The 9 Azores islands are located in the North Atlantic Ocean, about 1500 km from Europe. The vascular plant flora, consisting of 1002 taxa, was characterized using a database. Biogeographic and historic criteria were used to categorize the taxa as indigenous (31%) and non-indigenous (69%). The proportion of non-indigenous vascular plant taxa is higher than in other island ecosystems. This might have resulted from the removal of native vegetation and the introduction of many cultivated and ornamental plants, and from the relatively large extension of the agricultural landscape. The introduced plants were largely subcosmopolitan therophytes and hemicryptophytes, mainly Dicotyledoneae and Monocotyledoneae. The families with highest absolute contributions were similar to those in other areas of the world (Poaceae, Asteraceae, Fabaceae, Brassicaceae, Scrophulariaceae), but not all contributed as expected by their species richness worldwide. Many were introduced as ornamental or crop plants, but there were also many accidental introductions of weeds (about 55% of non-indigenous taxa). Considering the 9 islands, the percentage of introductions was positively correlated with human population density and island surface below 300 m, and negatively correlated with island surface allocated to natural areas.