Plant Ecology

, Volume 208, Issue 2, pp 235–244 | Cite as

Can horse riding induce the introduction and establishment of alien plant species through endozoochory and gap creation?

Article

Abstract

The risk of spreading of alien species to protected forest habitats through recreational horse-back riding was experimentally investigated at Oulanka National Park, north-eastern Finland during 2002–2005. Levels of disturbance, horse manure and seed rain of dwarf shrubs were manipulated in genuine boreal forest habitat. Specifically we asked (i) whether the seeds of alien species can be dispersed to natural forests by horse manure and (ii) whether disturbance in soils and vegetation increases the density of alien species and decrease the density of native species. Manure addition introduced seeds of graminoid and forb species, which were absent elsewhere in the study area. Establishment of the alien species was further enhanced by the disturbance treatment. Germination of natural shrub species was enhanced by disturbance treatment, whereas manure addition had little impact on the native shrubs. The results indicate that alien species may be introduced to natural forests through recreational horse riding, if horses are fed by hay that contains germinable seeds. Soil disturbance enhances the germination of seeds. In practice, the risk of alien species to the biodiversity of natural forests may be relatively small due to the lack of continuous disturbance in these habitats. Instead, the greatest risk is caused by the possibility of alien species to spread via trails to neighbouring, extremely sensitive open habitats.

Keywords

Alien species Disturbance Horse manure Horse riding Invasive species Protected areas 

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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.JAMK University of Applied SciencesJyväskyläFinland
  2. 2.Oulanka Research StationUniversity of OuluKuusamoFinland
  3. 3.Finnish Forest Research Institute, Muhos Research StationMuhosFinland

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