Soil disturbance, vegetation cover and the establishment of the exotic shrub Pyracantha coccinea in southern France.
We evaluate the mechanisms that determine the establishment of the non-indigenous shrub Pyracantha coccinea (Rosaceae) in the Montpellier region of southern France. P. coccinea establishes in abandoned agricultural fields in this region; yet, despite its high propagule pressure, it has not become a widespread invasive. We hypothesized that the disturbance conditions prevailing in abandoned agricultural fields right after abandonment may enhance the emergence, survival and growth of P. coccinea, but that shortly after abandonment colonizing vegetation prevents further establishment of this species. We conducted a field experiment to evaluate this hypothesis, studying the response of seedling emergence and growth of P. coccinea to soil and vegetation disturbance. Our results show that both lack of vegetation cover and soil disturbance promote the emergence of seedlings of P. coccinea. Thus, the disturbance conditions prevailing in abandoned agricultural fields seem crucial to allow establishment of this species. However, other factors such as lack of summer dormancy and seed predation might explain why this species has not become a widespread invasive.