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Plant species diversity, community structure and invasion status in insular primary forests on the Sekimon uplifted limestone (Ogasawara Islands)

Abstract

Native forests on oceanic islands are among the most threatened ecosystems. The forests formed on Sekimon uplifted limestone in Haha-jima Island (Ogasawara Islands) have not yet been destroyed by human activities and remain as primary forests harboring several narrow endemic endangered plants. In this paper, we described the plant species diversity, community structure, and status of invasion by alien plants in the mesic forests of Sekimon. The Sekimon forest was characterized by low tree diversity (37 species), high stem density (1731 ha−1), and high basal area (63.9 m2 ha−1), comparing with natural forests in world islands. The forests were dominated in the number of stems by the sub-tree Ardisia sieboldii followed by the trees Pisonia umbellifera and Elaeocarpus photiniifolius. The invasive tree Bischofia javanica ranked fourth for basal area and third for the number of stems (DBH ≥ 10 cm), and its distribution expanded, especially near a past plantation site. Surveys of forest floor vegetation revealed that species richness of vascular plants was 109 species and that many alien plants had already invaded the forests. Despite the low species richness of alien (16% for vascular flora and 8% for trees), the high frequency of aliens on the forest floor suggests that they have colonized successfully in the Sekimon forest. Extrapolation analysis based on the rarefaction curves predicted that the vascular plants in the Sekimon (25 ha) accounted for 135 species (29.9% of the vascular flora of the Ogasawara Islands) and endemic plants were 85 species (62.0%). The fact that the 39 vascular species recorded in our plots were listed in Japanese Red List suggests that the Sekimon forest should be conserved as a sanctuary of biodiversity. Because alien plants are invading the forests without apparent anthropogenic disturbance, immediate action to eradicate these invaders is highly needed.

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Acknowledgements

We thank the staff of the National Forest Division of the Ogasawara General Office and the Ministry of the Environment for granting permission to carry out our field surveys. Yoshio Hoshi, Hiromi Umeno, Keita Fukasawa and Fumiko Shibazaki helped the field surveys. This study was funded by the Japanese Ministry of the Environment (Global Environmental Research Coordination System).

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Correspondence to Tetsuto Abe.

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Abe, T., Tanaka, N. & Shimizu, Y. Plant species diversity, community structure and invasion status in insular primary forests on the Sekimon uplifted limestone (Ogasawara Islands). J Plant Res 131, 1001–1014 (2018). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10265-018-1062-5

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Keywords

  • Biodiversity hotspot
  • Endangered plants
  • Invasive alien tree
  • Oceanic island
  • Species–area relationships