Urban riparian systems function as corridors for both native and invasive plant species

Abstract

Riparian areas are often the only green areas left in urban and suburban landscapes, providing opportunities for conservation and connectivity of both aquatic and terrestrial organisms. While city planners and land managers often tout the importance of riparian networks for these uses, it is not well established if urban riparian plant communities are actually functioning as connected assemblages. Furthermore, urban riparian zones are well known to be highly invaded by non-native plant species and may be functioning to increase the spread of non-native species across the landscape. Here we examine connectivity of plant assemblages in riparian networks within an extensively urbanized landscape. We sampled riparian plant communities at 13 sites along three second-order streams of the Rahway River watershed, New Jersey. We also characterized propagule dispersal at each site by sampling litter packs on the river banks five times between March–October 2011 and identifying germinants from litter packs after cold stratification. Species turnover of both riparian and litter vegetation was more strongly associated with flow distance, particularly for native species, indicating that riverine systems are important for promoting connectivity of native plant assemblages in urban landscapes. However, non-native germinants significantly dominated propagule dispersal along the stream reaches, particularly early in the growing season, suggesting spread utilizing the river system and preemption may be an important mechanism for invasion success in this system. Our data show that management of invasive species should be planned and implemented at the watershed scale to reduce spread via the river system.

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Acknowledgements

Funding for this project was provide by the US National Science Foundation DEB #: 0948896, Rutgers School for Environmental and Biological Sciences, and the Rutgers New Jersey Agricultural Experiment Station. Lauren Poster helped with plant identification. Jean Epiphan and Jim Trimble assisted with the maps. We thank Robert M. Goodman for his encouragement and support. We would also like to thank David Ehrenfeld for reviewing the manuscript and approving this version for publication on behalf of Joan G. Ehrenfeld. We dedicate this work to our co-author, friend, and mentor, Joan G. Ehrenfeld, whose critical contributions to plant ecology and urban systems have been sorely missed.

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Correspondence to Myla F. J. Aronson.

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Guest Editors: Mirijam Gaertner, John R. U. Wilson, Marc W. Cadotte, J. Scott MacIvor, Rafael D. Zenni and David M. Richardson/Urban Invasions.

Joan G. Ehrenfeld: Deceased.

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Aronson, M.F.J., Patel, M.V., O’Neill, K.M. et al. Urban riparian systems function as corridors for both native and invasive plant species. Biol Invasions 19, 3645–3657 (2017). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10530-017-1583-1

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Keywords

  • Corridors
  • Invasive plant species
  • Riparian
  • Spread
  • Seed dispersal
  • Urban invasions