Polar Biology

, Volume 41, Issue 9, pp 1725–1735 | Cite as

Alien or native? Examining a case of Melampyrum pratense in Iceland

  • Pawel Wasowicz
  • Snæbjörn Pálsson
  • Andrzej Pasierbiński
  • Mariusz Wierzgoń
  • Erling Ólafsson
  • Starri Heiðmarsson
  • Ewa Maria Przedpelska-Wasowicz
Original Paper


In 2016, a single, large population of Melampyrum pratense (Orobanchaceae) was discovered in Vaglaskógur forest in NE Iceland. This population can be considered as extremely disjunct as the closest population of this myrmecochorous, slowly dispersing, hemiparasitic plant species is known from the Shetland Islands located ca. 1000 km south-east from Vaglaskógur. Our research was aimed at elucidating whether the species is a recent anthropogenic addition to the Icelandic flora or if its presence should be attributed to a natural long-distance dispersal event. In order to answer this question, we employed a diversified methodological approach consisting of a traditional vegetation survey, faunistic study and two mathematical modelling techniques. Our work showed that M. pratense inhabits an almost undisturbed birch forest, and the formation of the population of this size would take more than 3000 years given the absence of main dispersal vectors. Using the distribution modelling approach, we also determined that climatic conditions facilitating the establishment of the population were in place since at least mid-Holocene.


Melampyrum pratense Iceland Myrmecochory Ecology Long-distance dispersal 



We would like to thank Halldór G. Pétursson, the editor and three anonymous reviewers who are acknowledged for their contributions that helped us improve our manuscript.

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Supplementary material

300_2018_2312_MOESM1_ESM.r (2 kb)
Supplementary material 1 (R 2 kb). Online Resource 1. R code for age modelling experiments
300_2018_2312_MOESM2_ESM.docx (114 kb)
Supplementary material 2 (DOCX 114 kb). Online Resource 2. Distribution modelling – model calibration
300_2018_2312_MOESM3_ESM.pdf (77 kb)
Supplementary material 3 (PDF 76 kb). Online Resource 3. Statistics for distribution modelling experiments
300_2018_2312_MOESM4_ESM.xlsx (24 kb)
Supplementary material 4 (XLSX 24 kb). Online Resource 4. Plant species and their cover in all investigated transects and plots


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Icelandic Institute of Natural History – Akureyri DivisionAkureyriIceland
  2. 2.Department of Life and Environmental SciencesUniversity of IcelandReykjavíkIceland
  3. 3.Department of Botany and Nature Protection, Faculty of Biology and Environmental ProtectionUniversity of SilesiaKatowicePoland
  4. 4.Icelandic Institute of Natural HistoryGarðabærIceland

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