Plant Ecology

, Volume 210, Issue 2, pp 225–239 | Cite as

Influence of past land use and current human disturbance on non-native plant species on small Italian islands

  • F. PrettoEmail author
  • L. Celesti-Grapow
  • E. Carli
  • C. Blasi


Biological invasions are regarded as one of the main drivers of habitat degradation in island ecosystems. Mediterranean islands have been subjected to a high degree of land conversion over the past 60 years, resulting in a massive reduction in the amount of rural land and the sprawl of tourist activities. The aims of this paper are to evaluate the current level of invasion of alien plant species in semi-natural vegetation types that have developed after the abandonment of agriculture and to analyze the relationships between non-native species, native flora, and environmental characteristics. Two Italian islands (Ponza and Ventotene) were surveyed using a random-stratified sampling. The occurrence and relative cover of alien plant species were compared and separate analyses were performed for the native flora. Abundance patterns of both native and alien species were then studied in the light of the environmental and anthropogenic features. Although we found that some non-native species are extremely widespread, their relative cover at the plot level is low. Permutational Multivariate Analysis of Variance and Indicator Species Analysis revealed dissimilarities in the native species composition, while Mann–Whitney and Kruskal–Wallis tests showed differences in the ecological requirements (moisture, soil reaction, and nitrogen) of the native species pool. Canonical Correspondence Analysis pointed to the importance of the proximity to agricultural areas, human disturbance, and past land management, particularly residual terraces, in determining the difference between plant communities on the two islands. The results of our study suggest that traditional forms of agriculture may represent a key element for countering the establishment and spread of non-native plants in Mediterranean areas.


Agriculture abandonment Mediterranean Basin Alien flora Ornamental introduction Plant invasion Terraces 



Permutational multivariate analysis of variance


Indicator species analysis


Detrended correspondence analysis


Canonical correspondence analysis



This study received financial support from the research project “A survey of the non-native flora of Italy”, funded by the Italian Ministry for the Environment, Land and Sea Protection and coordinated by Prof. Carlo Blasi, director of the Inter-university Research Centre of Biodiversity, Plant Sociology and Landscape Ecology (CIRBFEP) of the Sapienza University of Rome. We thank Aldo Marchetto for his help in the statistical analysis and Lewis Baker for revising the English. We are also grateful to Barbara Dalla Bona for her assistance in collecting data and to Sabina Burrascano, Giulia Capotorti, and Raffaella Frondoni for their useful comments.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  • F. Pretto
    • 1
    Email author
  • L. Celesti-Grapow
    • 1
  • E. Carli
    • 1
  • C. Blasi
    • 1
  1. 1.Plant Biology DepartmentSapienza University of RomeRomeItaly

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