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Temporal changes in the impacts on plant communities of an invasive alien tree, Acacia longifolia

Abstract

Studies on the impacts of invasive plants are common but most are short term and fail to consider the temporal context of invasion. The present work investigated particular invasions on two different time scales and asked: (1) Do the impacts of an invasive tree on plant communities change after decades of invasion? (2) Are patterns of impacts dynamic over a period of five years? (3) Can multiple parameters reveal impacts that are unnoticed when single-value parameters are measured alone? Contrasting plant communities (long invaded, recently invaded and non-invaded) of a Portuguese coastal dune were compared during a 5-year period to assess the impacts of the invasive Acacia longifolia. Plant diversity, richness, cover, plant traits, indicator species analysis, similarity between areas and species turnover were analysed to reveal spatial and temporal patterns of change. Native species richness declined in both invaded areas. As invasion time increased, species shared with natural habitats decreased along with native plant cover, diversity and species turnover. Many species typical of dunes were replaced by generalists and exotics species, and richness of species with some level of nitrophily increased, particularly in recently invaded areas. Life form spectrum was radically transformed in invaded areas with several small-sized life forms being replaced by one single microphanerophyte. Germination of A. longifolia was greatest in long invaded areas. Findings show that modification of plant communities intensifies with invasion time and that invasion promotes a diversity of structural and functional changes which are dynamic over a few years (medium-term scale) but which tend to stabilize after several decades (long-term scale). An analysis of parameters in combination revealed changes that were not apparent when the same parameters were considered separately.

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Acknowledgments

The authors thank C.Santos for contribution in field work, J.Maia for collaboration on species identification and Francisco López-Núñez for help with R. Thoughtful reviews and constructive criticisms by anonymous reviewers were greatly valued. This research was supported by FCT-MCTES (Portuguese Foundation for Science and Technology) and European fund FEDER, projects POCTI/BSE/42335/2001 and PTDC/AAG-REC/4607/2012. H.S.M. was supported by FCT-MCTES, grant SFRH/BD/24987/2005.

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Correspondence to Hélia Marchante.

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Communicated by E. T. F. Witkowski.

Appendix

Appendix

Appendix A
figure 6

Distribution map of the permanent plots, each 2 × 10 m, in areas non-invaded (NI), recently invaded (RI) and long invaded (LI) by A. longifolia. Groups of two plots were nearby (each white dot locates a pair of plots) and located at least 50 m, frequently more, from any of the other groups

Appendix B List of ecological features and plant traits and respective attributes used for the comparison of areas with different invasion histories, through the monitoring time
Appendix C List of species identified during the study
Appendix D
figure 7

Dominance-diversity curves for each attribute of (a) biogeographic distribution of species, (b) Raunkaier life forms and (c) nitrophily adaptation in areas non-invaded, recently invaded and long invaded by A. longifolia. The sequence in each trait attribute (in abscissa) lists species from most to least abundant and consequently each number in the different sequences does not necessarily correspond to the same species. Abundance of each species plotted is an average from observations, from 2003 to 2008

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Marchante, H., Marchante, E., Freitas, H. et al. Temporal changes in the impacts on plant communities of an invasive alien tree, Acacia longifolia . Plant Ecol 216, 1481–1498 (2015). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11258-015-0530-4

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  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/s11258-015-0530-4

Keywords

  • Acacia longifolia
  • Coastal ecosystems
  • Indicator species analysis
  • Long-term impacts
  • Medium-term impacts
  • Plant traits
  • Invasion chronology
  • Species turn over