Biodiversity and Conservation

, Volume 21, Issue 14, pp 3555–3568 | Cite as

Forest plant diversity is threatened by Robinia pseudoacacia (black-locust) invasion

  • Renato Benesperi
  • Claudia GiulianiEmail author
  • Silvana Zanetti
  • Matilde Gennai
  • Marta Mariotti Lippi
  • Tommaso Guidi
  • Juri Nascimbene
  • Bruno Foggi
Original Paper


The effects of black-locust invasion on plant forest diversity are still poorly investigated. Vascular plants are likely to be influenced by increasing nutrient availability associated with the nitrogen-fixing activity of black-locust, whereas it is not clear if, along with stand aging, black-locust formations regain forest species. The main aim of the present study was to test whether the increase of black-locust stand age promoted a plant variation in mature stands leading to assemblages similar to those of native forests. Therefore, plant richness and composition of stands dominated by native trees were compared with pure black-locust stands of different successional stages. Our study confirmed that the replacement of native forests by pure black-locust stands causes both plant richness loss and shifts in species composition. In black-locust stands plant communities are dominated by nitrophilous species and lack many of the oligothrophic and acidophilus species typical of native forests. Plant communities of native forests are more diverse with respect to pure black-locust stands, suggesting that black-locust invasion also causes a homogenization of the plant forest biota. We did not detect differences across the successional gradient of black-locust stands, and mature stands do not recover the diversity of plant species which are lost by the replacement of the native forests by black-locust. Accordingly some efforts in reducing the negative impacts of black-locust invasion on plant forest biota should be focused at least in those areas where conservation is among management priorities, such in the case of habitats included in the Habitat Directive (92/43 ECE).


Invasive alien species Stand age Native deciduous forests Northern Apennines Robinia pseudoacacia 



This work was partly conducted within the project QuiT (Inquinamento biologico in Toscana ed elaborazione di scenari futuri in relazione al cambiamento climatico) POR-FSE 2007–2013, Resp. Francesca Gherardi. Finally, we thank the Province of Pistoia for financial support.


  1. Akobundu IO, Agyakwa CW (1987) A handbook of West African weeds. International Institute of Tropical Agriculture, IbadanGoogle Scholar
  2. Allan JD (1975) Components of diversity. Oecologia 18:359–367CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Auten JT (1945) Relative influence of sassafras, black-locust, and pines upon old-field soils. J Forest 43:441–446Google Scholar
  4. Behera DB, Kushwaha SPS (2012) The charms and challenges of climate change and biodiversity in a warming world. Biodivers Conserv 21:1153–1158CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Boring LR, Swank WT (1984) The role of black-locust (Robinia pseudoacacia) in forest succession. J Ecol 72:749–766CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Braun-Blanquet J (1932) Plant sociology. McGraw-Hill, New York and LondonGoogle Scholar
  7. Celesti-Grapow L, Pretto F, Brundu G, Carli E, Blasi C (2009). A thematic contribution to the National Biodiversity Strategy. Plant invasion in Italy, an overview. Ministry for the Environment Land and Sea Protection, Nature Protection Directorate, RomaGoogle Scholar
  8. Chapman AG (1935) The effects of black-locust on associated species with special reference to forest trees. Ecol Monogr 5:37–60CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Conti F, Abbate G, Alessandrini A, Blasi C (2005) An annotated checklist of the Italian vascular flora. Palombi Editori, RomaGoogle Scholar
  10. Conti F, Alessandrini A, Bacchetta G, Banfi E, Barberis G, Bartolucci F, Bernardo L, Bonacquisti S, Bouvet D, Bovio M, Brusa G, Del Guacchio E, Foggi B, Frattini S, Galasso G, Gallo L, Gangale C, Gottschlich G, Grünanger P, Gubellini L, Iiriti G, Lucarini D, Marchetti D, Moraldo B, Peruzzi L, Poldini L, Prosser F, Raffaelli M, Santangelo A, Scassellati E, Scortegagna S, Selvi F, Soldano A, Tinti D, Ubaldi D, Uzunov D, Vidali M (2007) Integrazioni alla checklist della flora vascolare italiana. Nat Vicentina 10:5–74Google Scholar
  11. Daehler CC, Strong DR (1994) Native plant biodiversity vs. the introduced invaders: status of the conflict and future management options. In: Majumdar SK, Brenner FJ, Lovich JE, Schalles JF, Miller EW (eds) Biological diversity: problems and challenges. Pennsylvania Academy of Science, Easton, pp 92–113Google Scholar
  12. Davis MA (2003) Biotic globalization: does competition from introduced species threaten biodiversity? Bioscience 53:481–489CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Dzwonko Z, Loster S (1997) Effects of dominant trees and anthropogenic disturbances on species richness and floristic composition of secondary communities in Southern Poland. J Appl Ecol 34:861–870CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Ehrenfeld JG (2003) Effects of exotic plant invasions on soil nutrient cycling processes. Ecosystems 6:503–523CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Ellenberg H (1988) Vegetation ecology of Central Europe. Cambridge University Press, CambridgeGoogle Scholar
  16. Everitt JH, Lonard RI, Little CR (2007) Weeds in South Texas and Northern Mexico. Texas Tech University Press, LubbockGoogle Scholar
  17. Friederich JM, Dawson JO (1984) Soil nitrogen concentration and Juglans nigra growth in mixed plots with nitrogen-fixing Alnus, Elaeagnus, Lespedeza, and Robinia species. Can J Forest Res 14:864–868CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Gaertner M, Den Breeyen A, Hui C, Richardson DM (2009) Impacts of alien plant invasions on species richness in mediterranean-type ecosystems: a meta-analysis. Prog Phys Geog 33:319–338CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Galka A, Zarzynski J, Kopeć M (2005) Effect of different fertilization regimes on species composition and habitat in long-term grassland experiment. Grassland Sci Eur 10:132–135Google Scholar
  20. Halupa L, Rédei K (1992) Establishment for forests primarily for energetic purpose. In: Proceedings of the Hungarian Forest Research Institute (Erdészeti Kutatások), Budapest, vol 82–83, pp 304–312Google Scholar
  21. Hejda M, Pyšek P (2006) What is the impact of Impatiens glandulifera on species diversity of invaded riparian vegetation? Biol Conserv 132:143–152CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Hicks WK, Whitfield CP, Bealey WJ, Sutton MA (2011) Nitrogen deposition and Natura 2000: science & practice in determining environmental impacts. Workshop Proceedings, COST. Accessed 10 June 2012
  23. Holm LG, Plucknett DL, Pancho JV, Herberger TP (1977) The world’s worst weeds. Distribution and biology. University Press, HonoluluGoogle Scholar
  24. Holm L, Doll J, Holm E, Pancho J, Herberger J (1997) World weeds. Natural histories and distribution. Wiley, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  25. Honsová D, Hejcman M, Klaudisová M, Pavlu V, Kocourková D, Hakl J (2007) Species composition of an alluvial meadow after 40 years of applying nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium fertilizer. Preslia 79:245–258Google Scholar
  26. Hruska K (1991) Human impact on the forest vegetation in the western part of the Pannonic Plain (Yugoslavia). Vegetatio 92:161–166Google Scholar
  27. Kirkham FW, Tallowin JRB, Sanderson RA, Bhogal A, Chambers BJ, Stevens DP (2008) The impact of organic and inorganic fertilizers and lime on the species-richness and plant functional characteristics of hay meadow communities. Biol Cons 141:1411–1427CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Kleinbauer I, Dullinger S, Peterseil J, Essl F (2010) Climate change must drive the invasive tree Robinia pseudoacacia into nature reserve and endangered habitats. Biol Cons 143(2):382–390CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Lande R (1996) Statistics and partitioning of species diversity, and similarity among multiple communities. Oikos 76:5–13CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Le Maitre DC, Gaertner M, Marchante E, Ens EJ, Holmes PM, Pauchard A, O’Farrell PJ, Rogers AM, Blanchard R, Blignaut J, Richardson DM (2011) Impacts of invasive Australian acacias: implications for management and restoration. Divers Distrib 17:1015–1029CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Marchante E, Kjøller A, Struwe S, Freitas H (2008) Invasive Acacia longifolia induce changes in the microbial catabolic diversity of sand dunes. Soil Biol Biochem 40:2563–2568CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Martin LJ, Blossey B (2012) Invasive plants cover impacts the desirability of lands for conservation acquisition. Biodivers Conserv 21:1987–1996CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. McCune B, Grace JB (2002) Analysis of ecological communities. MjM Software, Gleneden BeachGoogle Scholar
  34. McCune B, Mefford MJ (1999) Multivariate analysis of ecological data, version 4.25. MjM Software, Gleneden BeachGoogle Scholar
  35. McKendry P (2001) Energy production from biomass (part 1): overview of biomass. Bioresour Technol 83:37–46CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. McKinney ML, Lockwood JL (1999) Biotic homogenization: a few winners replacing many losers in the next mass extinction. Trends Ecol Evol 14:450–453PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Motta R, Nola P, Berretti R (2009) The rise and fall of the black-locust (Robinia pseudoacacia L.) in the “Siro Negri” Forest Reserve (Lombardy, Italy): lessons learned and future uncertainties. Ann Forest Sci 66: 410Google Scholar
  38. Nascimbene J, Marini L (2010) Oak forest exploitation and black-locust invasion caused severe shifts in epiphytic lichen communities in Northern Italy. Sci Total Environ 408:5506–5512PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Nascimbene J, Nimis PL, Benesperi R (2012) Mature non-native black-locust (Robinia pseudoacacia L.) forest does not regain the lichen diversity of the natural forest. Sci Total Environ 421–422:197–202PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Osada T (1997) Colored illustrations of naturalized plants of Japan. Hoikusha Publishing Co., OsakaGoogle Scholar
  41. Pauchard A, Shea K (2006) Integrating the study of non-native plant invasions across spatial scales. Biol Invasions 8:399–413CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Peloquin RL, Hiebert RD (1999) The effects of black-locust (Robinia pseudoacacia) on species diversity and composition of black oak savanna/woodland communities. Nat Areas J 19:121–131Google Scholar
  43. Pignatti S, Menegoni P, Pietrosanti S (2005) Bioindicazione attraverso le piante vascolari. Valori di indicazione secondo Ellenberg (Zeigerwerte) per le specie della Flora d’Italia. Braun-Blanquetia 39:1–97Google Scholar
  44. Pimentel D, Lach L, Zuniga R, Morrison D (2000) Environmental and economic costs of nonindigenous species in the United States. Bioscience 50:53–65CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. Pimentel D, Zuniga R, Morrison D (2005) Update on the environmental and economic costs associated with alien-invasive species in the United States. Ecol Econ 52:273–288CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. Pividori M, Grieco C (2003) Evoluzione strutturale di popolamenti cedui di robinia (Robinia pseudoacacia L.) nel Canavese (Torino–Italia). Schweiz Z Forstwes 154:1–7CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. Raju RA (1998) Prevalent weed flora in Peninsular India. Allied Publishers, New DelhiGoogle Scholar
  48. Rédei K (2003) Black-locust (Robinia pseudoacacia L.) growing in Hungary, 3rd edn. Hungarian Forest Research Institute, BudapestGoogle Scholar
  49. Reichard SH, Hamilton CW (1997) Predicting invasions of woody plants into North America. Conserv Biol 11:193–203CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  50. Rice SK, Westerman B, Federici R (2004) Impacts of the exotic, nitrogen-fixing black-locust (Robinia pseudoacacia) on nitrogen-cycling in a pine–oak ecosystem. Plant Ecol 174:97–107CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  51. Richardson DM, Rejmánek M (2011) Trees and shrubs as invasive species—a global review. Divers Distrib 17:788–809CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  52. Rooney TP, Wiegmann SM, Rogers DA, Waller DM (2004) Biotic impoverishment and homogenization in unfragmented forest understory. Conserv Biol 18:787–798CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  53. Roschewitz I, Gabriel D, Tscharntke T et al (2005) The effects of landscape complexity on arable weed species diversity in organic and conventional farming. J Appl Ecol 42:873–882CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  54. Sabo AE (2000) Robinia pseudoacacia invasions and control in North America and Europe. Rest Recl Rev 6: 244–251. Accessed 20 May 2012
  55. Sax DF, Gaines SD, Brown JH (2002) Species invasions exceed extinctions on islands worldwide: a comparative study of plants and birds. Am Nat 160:766–783PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  56. Tani A, Maltoni A, Mariotti B (2012) La gestione della robinia in Toscana. Centro stampa Giunta RegioneToscana, FirenzeGoogle Scholar
  57. Vitousek PM, Walker LR, Whiteaker LD, Mueller-Dombois D, Matson PA (1987) Biological invasion by Myrica faya alters ecosystem development in Hawaii. Science 238:802–804PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  58. Von Holle B, Joseph KA, Largay EF, Lohnes RG (2006) Facilitations between the introduced nitrogen-fixing tree, Robinia pseudoacacia, and nonnative plant species in the glacial outwash upland ecosystem of Cape Cod, MA. Biodivers Conserv 15:2197–2215CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  59. Wilcove DS, Rothstein D, Dubow J, Phillips A, Losos E (1998) Assessing the relative importance of habitat destruction, alien species, pollution, over-exploitation, and disease. Bioscience 48:607–616CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  60. Yelenik SG, Stock WD, Richardson DM (2007) Functional group identity does not predict invader impacts: differential effects of nitrogen-fixing exotic plants on ecosystem function. Biol Invasions 9:117–125CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  • Renato Benesperi
    • 1
  • Claudia Giuliani
    • 1
    Email author
  • Silvana Zanetti
    • 1
  • Matilde Gennai
    • 1
  • Marta Mariotti Lippi
    • 1
  • Tommaso Guidi
    • 1
  • Juri Nascimbene
    • 2
  • Bruno Foggi
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Evolutionary BiologyUniversity of FlorenceFlorenceItaly
  2. 2.Department of Life SciencesUniversity of TriesteTriesteItaly

Personalised recommendations