Plant Ecology

, Volume 216, Issue 6, pp 823–833 | Cite as

Invasions across secondary forest successional stages: effects of local plant community, soil, litter, and herbivory on Hovenia dulcis seed germination and seedling establishment

  • M. S. DechoumEmail author
  • R. D. Zenni
  • T. T. Castellani
  • S. M. Zalba
  • M. Rejmánek


Species abilities for seed germination and seedling survival under different situations are good predictors of their capacity to colonize a broad range of habitats. Biotic conditions related to understory cover, and abiotic factors such as litter thickness and soil moisture can be determinants of plant establishment. We evaluated seed germination, seedling survival, and growth of the invasive tree Hovenia dulcis under experimental field conditions in three successional stages (open, semi-open, and closed vegetation) of a fragmented seasonal deciduous forest in southern Brazil. Our hypotheses were that H. dulcis seed germination, seedling survival, and seedling growth decrease along the successional gradient, that these factors are positively affected by soil moisture and percentage of bare soil, and negatively affected by understory cover and litter thickness. We also tested the hypothesis that herbivory on H. dulcis would decrease along the successional gradient. Our main finding was that H. dulcis can germinate and establish along all forest successional stages because it is shade-tolerant. Abiotic factors were more important than biotic factors for seed germination. Soil moisture positively affected seed germination while litter thickness negatively influenced seed germination. Percentage of bare soil negatively influenced seedling survival. Germination rates were higher in closed vegetation, whereas seedling survival was higher in semi-open vegetation, and growth rates were higher in open vegetation. There was no difference in herbivory among successional stages. The results of our study show that intermediate forest succession stages congregate the most favorable conditions for H. dulcis establishment, likely making them more susceptible to invasion.


Growth Survival Invasive alien species Biotic resistance Shade tolerance Deciduous forest 



Financial support was received from Tractebel Energia S.A., PPGECO/UFSC, and FAPESC. M. S. D. is supported by CAPES, Brazil. R. D. Z. acknowledges support from CNPq-Brazil. S. M. Z. received support from the Universidad Nacional del Sur and CONICET, Argentina. Sílvia Ziller and Clark Richter helped improve the language. Two anonymous referees' comments and suggestions substantially improved the manuscript.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  • M. S. Dechoum
    • 1
    Email author
  • R. D. Zenni
    • 2
  • T. T. Castellani
    • 1
  • S. M. Zalba
    • 3
  • M. Rejmánek
    • 4
  1. 1.Plant Ecology Lab, Department of Ecology and Zoology, Biological Sciences CenterFederal University of Santa Catarina - UFSCFlorianópolisBrazil
  2. 2.Department of EcologyThe University of BrasíliaBrasíliaBrazil
  3. 3.Department of Biology, Biochemistry and PharmacyUniversidad Nacional del SurBahía BlancaArgentina
  4. 4.Department of Evolution and EcologyUniversity of CaliforniaDavisUSA

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