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Towards a better understanding of the effect of anthropogenic habitat disturbance on the invasion success of non-native species: slugs in eastern Canadian forests


The disturbance hypothesis postulates that habitat disturbance favours the invasion success of non-native species. Its unspecific formulation has led invasion biologists to evaluate either the effect of the occurrence of a disturbance or its characteristics (e.g., its intensity) on the invasion success of non-native species. However, the hypothesis is unclear about these two effects, which might explain why studies offer ambivalent support for this hypothesis. Our objective was to determine the effects of the occurrence of an anthropogenic disturbance (i.e., logging), its intensity, and the time since its occurrence on the invasion success (i.e., abundance) of the non-native slug species complex Arion subfuscus s.l. (hereafter Arion). We used pitfall trapping in stands located in two boreal and two temperate forest ecosystems in eastern Canada. We sampled unlogged and logged stands that differ in harvesting intensity (from partial to complete removal of standing live trees and downed biomass) and time since logging (from 1 to 66 years). Our results revealed a positive effect of logging occurrence on Arion abundance in only one of the four study sites, whereas it had a negative or no effect at the three other study sites. Our results also showed that Arion abundance decreased with increased biomass removal intensity and usually increased with time-since-logging. Given the varying response of non-native species to logging and its characteristics, future studies should aim to reformulate the disturbance hypothesis to make more specific predictions of the conditions under which habitat disturbance promotes the invasion success of non-native species.

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The datasets generated and/or analysed during the current study are available from the corresponding author on reasonable request.


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We thank Audrey Mia Sigouin, Émilie Roy, Hélène Le Borgne, Andréanne Beardsell, Maxime Cotnoir, Pascal Royer-Boutin, Orphé Bichet, Gabriel Emond, Jean-Pierre Michaud, Laura Boisvert-Marsh, Kerrie Wainio-Keizer, Kevin Good, Craig Zimmerman and Idaline Laigle for their help at different stages of the study. We also thank WFJ Parsons for English revision.


This research was funded by the Fonds de recherche du Québec—Nature et technologies (FRQNT, grant number 2016-NC-189930) and the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC, grant number RGPIN-2015–04516). The Island Lake Biomass Harvest Experiment was developed as a collaboration of the Canadian Forest Service of Natural Resources Canada, the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry, and the regional forest industry and was supported by Natural Resources Canada, the ecoENERGY Innovation Initiative administrated by the Office of Energy Research and Development, and the NSERC (Grant Number: RDCPJ 424279—11).

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AM, AD, FL, and IA contributed to the study conception. All authors contributed to the experimental design and data acquisition. Data analysis was performed by AM and AD. All authors contributed to the interpretation of data, the writing, revising, and final approval of the article version to be submitted for publication.

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Correspondence to Angélique Dupuch.

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Mazaleyrat, A., Lorenzetti, F., Aubin, I. et al. Towards a better understanding of the effect of anthropogenic habitat disturbance on the invasion success of non-native species: slugs in eastern Canadian forests. Biol Invasions 24, 1267–1281 (2022).

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  • Disturbance hypothesis
  • Habitat disturbance
  • Non-native species
  • Invasion success
  • Logging
  • Slug