Biological Invasions

, Volume 6, Issue 4, pp 393–410

Forest Invasibility in Communities in Southeastern New York

  • Timothy G. Howard
  • Jessica Gurevitch
  • Laura Hyatt
  • Margaret Carreiro
  • Manuel Lerdau


While biological invasions have been the subject of considerable attention both historically and recently, the factors controlling the susceptibility of communities to plant invasions remain controversial. We surveyed 44 sites in southeastern New York State to examine the relationships between plant community characteristics, soil characteristics, and nonnative plant invasion. Soil nitrogen mineralization and nitrification rates were strongly related to the degree of site invasion (F= 30.2, P < 0.0001 and F= 11.8, P < 0.005, respectively), and leaf C : N ratios were negatively correlated with invasion (R2= 0.22, P < 0.0001). More surprisingly, there was a strong positive relationship between soil calcium levels and the degree of site invasion (partial r= 0.70, P < 0.01), and there were also positive relationships between invasion and soil magnesium and phosphorus. We found, in addition, a positive factor-ceiling relationship between native species diversity and invasive species diversity. This positive relationship between native and invasive diversity contradicts earlier hypotheses concerning the relationships between species diversity and invasion, but supports some recent findings. Cluster analysis distinguished two broad forest community types at our sites: pine barrens and mixed hardwood communities. Invaders were significantly more abundant in mixed hardwood than in pine barrens communities (Mann–Whitney U = 682.5, P < 0.0001). Even when evaluating the mixed hardwood communities alone, invasion remained significantly positively correlated with soil fertility (calcium, magnesium, and net nitrogen mineralization rates). Soil texture and pH were not useful predictors of the degree to which forests were invaded. Nitrogen and calcium are critical components of plant development, and species better able to take advantage of increased nutrient availability may out-perform others at sites with higher nutrient levels. These results have implications for areas such as the eastern United States, where anthropogenic changes in the availability of nitrogen and calcium are affecting many plant communities.

calcium community composition exotic plants invasion tolerance invasive species magnesium nitrogen plant community soil resources species richness 


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Copyright information

© Kluwer Academic Publishers 2004

Authors and Affiliations

  • Timothy G. Howard
    • 1
  • Jessica Gurevitch
    • 1
  • Laura Hyatt
    • 1
  • Margaret Carreiro
    • 2
  • Manuel Lerdau
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Ecology and EvolutionState University of New York at Stony BrookStony BrookUSA; Present Address: New York Natural Heritage Program, 625 Broadway, Albany, NY 12233-4757, USA; e-mail:
  2. 2.Louis Calder Center and Department of Biological SciencesFordham University, ArmonkNY 10504USA; Present Address: Department of Biology, University of Louisville, Louisville, KY 40292, USA

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