Consistency in the habitat degree of invasion for three invasive plant species across Mediterranean islands
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- Affre, L., Suehs, C.M., Charpentier, S. et al. Biol Invasions (2010) 12: 2537. doi:10.1007/s10530-009-9662-6
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Habitats are known to vary in their vulnerability to invasion by alien plants and different species often colonise distinct habitats. To assess the consistency in the degree of invasion of particular habitats, this study examined the frequency of occurrence and local abundance of three invasive plant taxa: Ailanthus altissima, Carpobrotus spp., and Oxalis pes-caprae across different habitat types on four representative Mediterranean islands. We conducted systematic field surveys recording the presence-absence and cover of these taxa on the islands of Mallorca, Corsica, Sardinia and Crete. Drawing on the results of 5,285 sample points, the frequency of occurrence of the three invaders tends to be higher than expected in urban, ruderal and roadside habitats. In contrast, scrub habitats rarely contain any of the three invaders, indicating that they may be more resistant to invasion. The degree of invasion, determined by the local abundance of an invasive plant in any one habitat, varies according to the identity of the invader and the island. However, based on average abundance, Oxalis pes-caprae exhibits the highest degree of invasion, and Carpobrotus spp. the least. There is no indication that any one of the four islands is more prone to either higher frequencies or abundances of the three invaders. These patterns suggest that anthropogenic changes in Mediterranean islands will increase the vulnerability of certain habitats to invasion and increase the distribution of these three invasive taxa at any of the four islands.