Effects of invasive alien kahili ginger (Hedychium gardnerianum) on native plant species regeneration in a Hawaiian rainforest.
Questions: Does the invasive alien Hedychium gardnerianum (1) replace native understory species, (2) suppress natural regeneration of native plant species, (3) increase the invasiveness of other non-native plants and (4) are native forests are able to recover after removal of H. gardnerianum. Location: A mature rainforest in Hawai'i Volcanoes National Park on the island of Hawai'i (about 1200 m a.s.l.; precipitation approximately 2770 mm yr-1). Study sites included natural plots without effects of alien plants, ginger plots with a H. gardnerianum-dominated herb layer and cleared plots treated with herbicide to remove alien plants. Methods: Counting mature trees, saplings and seedlings of native and alien plant species. Using non-parametric H-tests to compare impact of H. gardnerianum on the structure of different sites. Results: Results confirmed the hypothesis that H. gardnerianum has negative effects on natural forest dynamics. Lower numbers of native tree seedlings and saplings were found on ginger-dominated plots. Furthermore, H. gardnerianum did not show negative effects on the invasive alien tree species Psidium cattleianum. Conclusions: This study reveals that where dominance of H. gardnerianum persists, regeneration of the forest by native species will be inhibited. Furthermore, these areas might experience invasion by P. cattleianum, resulting in displacement of native canopy species in the future, leading to a change in forest structure and loss of other species dependent on natural rainforest, such as endemic birds. However, if H. gardnerianum is removed the native Hawaiian forest is likely to regenerate and regain its natural structure.