Biological Invasions

, Volume 12, Issue 10, pp 3473–3484 | Cite as

Predicting the post-fire establishment and persistence of an invasive tree species across a complex landscape

  • Dane M. KuppingerEmail author
  • Michael A. Jenkins
  • Peter S. White
Original Paper


The reintroduction of pre-European fire regimes has allowed the entry of many invasive plant species into fire-dependant ecosystems of North America. However, the environmental factors that favor the post-fire establishment of these species across complex landscapes are not well understood and the initial establishment of invasive species does not necessarily result in long-term persistence. To evaluate the post-fire establishment and persistence of disturbance-dependent invasive plants, we studied the invasion of Paulownia tomentosa (princess tree, an early-successional species introduced from Asia) across three burns in the southern Appalachian Mountains. Based upon classification tree analysis, the presence/absence of P. tomentosa 2 years after burning was most strongly related to the cover of residual vegetation, topographic shading, and moisture availability. Spatial application of classification tree models to repeated survey data showed that P. tomentosa established across a wide range of microsites 2 years after burning. However, predicted habitat for P. tomentosa decreased by 63% 4 years after fire and by 73% 6 years after fire. Following its initial widespread establishment, P. tomentosa only persisted on xeric and exposed topographic positions that experienced high intensity burning. However, the sites where it persisted include rare community types that contain two endangered plant species that depend upon fire for successful reproduction. The control of P. tomentosa on these ecologically important sites may require special attention from land managers.


Paulownia tomentosa Invasive species Southern Appalachians Fire Xeric forests 



We thank Robert Peet, Thomas Wentworth, Aaron Moody, Chris Webster, and two anonymous reviewers for their helpful comments on earlier drafts of the manuscript. We also thank John Johnson for assistance with fieldwork and Jack Weiss for assistance with statistical analysis. Funding was provided by the Joint Fire Science Program and the Coker and Holland-Beers Scholarships.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  • Dane M. Kuppinger
    • 1
    • 3
    Email author
  • Michael A. Jenkins
    • 2
    • 4
  • Peter S. White
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Biology, Campus Box 3280University of North Carolina at Chapel HillChapel HillUSA
  2. 2.Inventory and Monitoring ProgramTwin Creeks Science and Education Center, Great Smoky Mountains National ParkGatlinburgUSA
  3. 3.A.J. Lewis Center for Environmental StudiesOberlin CollegeOberlinUSA
  4. 4.Department of Forestry and Natural ResourcesPurdue UniversityWest LafayetteUSA

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