Assessing Vulnerability to Invasion by Nonnative Plant Species at Multiple Spatial Scales
Basic information on where nonnative plant species have successfully invaded is lacking. We assessed the vulnerability of 22 vegetation types (25 sets of four plots in nine study areas) to nonnative plant invasions in the north–central United States. In general, habitats with high native species richness were more heavily invaded than species-poor habitats, low-elevation areas were more invaded than high-elevation areas, and riparian zones were more invaded than nearby upland sites. For the 100 1000-m2 plots (across all vegetation types), 50% of the variation in nonnative species richness was explained by longitude, latitude, native plant species richness, soil total percentage nitrogen, and mean maximum July temperature (n = 100 plots; P < 0.001). At the vegetation-type scale (n = 25 sets of four 1000-m2 plots/type), 64% of the variation in nonnative species richness was explained by native plant species richness, elevation, and October to June precipitation (P < 0.001). The foliar cover of nonnative species (log) was strongly positively correlated with the nonnative species richness at the plot scale (r = 0.77, P < 0.001) and vegetation-type scale (r = 0.83, P < 0.001). We concluded that, at the vegetation-type and regional scales in the north–central United States, (1) vegetation types rich in native species are often highly vulnerable to invasion by nonnative plant species; (2) where several nonnative species become established, nonnative species cover can substantially increase; (3) the attributes that maintain high native plant species richness (high light, water, nitrogen, and temperatures) also help maintain nonnative plant species richness; and (4) more care must be taken to preserve native species diversity in highly vulnerable habitats.
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