Invasive Species Compendium

Detailed coverage of invasive species threatening livelihoods and the environment worldwide

Abstract

Impact of invasions by alien plants on soil seed bank communities: emerging patterns.

Abstract

Much of our current understanding of the impact of invasive species on plant communities is based on patterns occurring in the above-ground vegetation, while only few studies have examined changes in soil seed banks associated with plant invasions, despite their important role as determinants of vegetation dynamics. Here, we reviewed the literature on the impact of plant invasions on the seed bank and we provide a quantitative synthesis using a meta-analysis approach. Specifically, (1) we quantified the impact of 18 invasive alien plants on (i) species richness and (ii) density of the seed banks of invaded communities, based on 58 pair-wise invaded-uninvaded comparisons (cases); we identified (2) the invasive taxa that are responsible for the largest changes in the seed bank; and (3) the habitats where substantial changes occur. Our study showed three major findings: (1) species richness (68% of cases) and density (58% of cases) were significantly lower in native seed banks invaded by alien plants; (2) species richness and density of native and alien species were remarkably lower in seed banks invaded by large, perennial herbs compared to uninvaded sites; and (3) invaded seed banks were often associated with a larger richness and/or abundance of alien species. This study indicates a need for additional seed bank data in invasion ecology to characterize species-specific and habitat-specific impacts of plant invasions, and to determine whether changes in the seed banks of native and alien species are a symptom of environmental degradation prior to a plant invasion or whether they are its direct result. The findings of this study help improve our capacity to predict the long-term implications of plant invasions, including limitations in the recruitment of native species from the seed bank and the potential for secondary invasions by seeds of other alien species.