Invasive Species Compendium

Detailed coverage of invasive species threatening livelihoods and the environment worldwide

Abstract

Long-term spatio-temporal expansion of the native-invasive Retama monosperma on coastal dunes: importance of land-use and natural dispersal vectors.

Abstract

Expansion of invasive species inducing sands stabilization is becoming an important ecological problem in coastal dunes in some parts of the world. Retama monosperma, an endemic to coasts of SE Spain and NE of Morocco, late-colonizing shrub occurring in sandy coastal areas, was planted along the coast of SW Spain during the 20th century to stabilize dunes. In recent decades, the species has spread rapidly, becoming invasive, and sometimes incurring notable changes in its environment and plant community. The expansion patterns of R. monosperma from 1956 to 2001 were described and quantified at the landscape scale within a protected dune system, using GIS. The differential effects on expansion patterns of the main factor controlling the population spread, grazing by domestic livestock and the abundance of wild rabbits, were analyzed comparatively. R. monosperma displays an exponential, invasive-type expansion trend, presenting a mean annual coverage increase of 15% and a mean lateral spread rate of 65.5 m yr-1 from the original population nucleus to the Western and Eastern ends of the study area. The dispersal activity primarily of rabbits and the absence of competing woody species contribute to this rapid expansion. The highest local increases in plant coverage could be related to increased rabbit abundance and to the improved germination rates of seeds which have passed through the rabbit gut. In contrast, areas highly grazed by livestock present the lowest increases, and an open-type plant community is maintained there for a longer time.