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Botanica Helvetica

, 119:105 | Cite as

Response of the alien species Panicum acuminatum to disturbance in an Italian lowland heathland

  • Michele Lonati
  • Alessandra Gorlier
  • Davide Ascoli
  • Raffaella Marzano
  • Giampiero Lombardi
Article

Abstract

The spread of exotic plants represents a new challenge for conservation management since practices commonly used to maintain semi-natural, open vegetation may promote the establishment of plant invaders. Panicum acuminatum Swartz is a perennial grass native to America that was naturalized in southern European heathlands. The effect of conservation management on the spread of this invasive species was studied in a heathland in NW Italy along an experimental disturbance gradient created by mowing, grazing, prescribed fire or various combinations of these treatments. Across treatments, the abundance of Panicum acuminatum was negatively correlated with the total abundance of the two dominant native species, Calluna vulgaris and Molinia arundinacea. The abundance of P. acuminatum differed significantly among treatments depending on the intensity and frequency of disturbance (phytomass removal). Thus, its abundance was highest in the repeated fire treatments as well as in the combined fire + grazing and fire + mowing treatments. Following these results, low-severity practices (grazing, mowing, occasional fire) seem most suitable to both reduce tree encroachment and control P. acuminatum spread.

Keywords

Exotic species Invasive plants Grazing Mowing Prescribed fire Vegetation management 

Effetto del disturbo su Panicum acuminatum in una brughiera planiziale italiana

Riassunto

La diffusione di piante esotiche rappresenta una nuova sfida per la gestione con finalità conservative, in quanto pratiche gestionali comunemente utilizzate per mantenere alcune cenosi semi-naturali possono promuovere la presenza di specie invasive. Panicum acuminatum Swartz è una graminea perenne originaria dell’America, naturalizzata nelle brughiere del Sud Europa. L’effetto delle pratiche gestionali sulla diffusione della specie è stata studiato in una brughiera planiziale dell’Italia Nord-occidentale, lungo un gradiente di disturbo simulato sperimentalmente mediante l’impiego di fuoco prescritto, pascolamento, sfalcio e delle loro combinazioni. La presenza di Panicum acuminatum è risultata negativamente correlata con l’abbondanza totale delle due specie autoctone dominanti, Calluna vulgaris e Molinia arundinacea. L’effetto di ciascun trattamento ha evidenziato differenze significative su P. acuminatum, in relazione all’intensità e alla frequenza del disturbo (rimozione di fitomassa). L’abbondanza della specie è risultata più alta nei trattamenti che prevedono l’impiego ripetuto del fuoco prescritto e nei trattamenti con uso combinato fuoco + pascolamento e fuoco + sfalcio. Sulla base dei risultati ottenuti, le pratiche gestionali a ridotta intensità di disturbo (pascolamento, sfalcio, fuoco prescritto occasionale) appaiono più indicate, sia per ridurre l’invasione delle specie legnose, sia per contenere la diffusione di P. acuminatum.

Notes

Acknowledgments

We thank the Ente di Gestione dei Parchi e delle Riserve Naturali del Canavese, Regione Piemonte (Land Administrators of the MNR of Vauda) for providing financial, logistical and technical support to this study, Dr. Sabine Güsewell and the anonymous referees for their helpful comments to previous versions of this manuscript. Project principal investigators are Prof. Andrea Cavallero and Prof. Giovanni Bovio.

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Copyright information

© Birkhäuser Verlag, Basel/Switzerland 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  • Michele Lonati
    • 1
  • Alessandra Gorlier
    • 1
  • Davide Ascoli
    • 1
  • Raffaella Marzano
    • 1
  • Giampiero Lombardi
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Agronomy, Forest and Land ManagementUniversity of TurinGrugliascoItaly

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