Invasive Species Compendium

Detailed coverage of invasive species threatening livelihoods and the environment worldwide

Abstract

Importance of molehill disturbances for invasion by Bunias orientalis in meadows and pastures.

Abstract

Small-scale soil disturbances by fossorial animals can change physical and biotic conditions in disturbed patches and influence spatial and temporal dynamics, and the composition of plant communities. They create regeneration niches and colonization openings for native plants and, according to the intermediate disturbance hypothesis, they are expected to increase plant community diversity. However, it also has been reported that increased disturbance resource availability and decreased competition with native species may result in the invasion of communities by alien plant species, as predicted by the fluctuating resources theory of invasibility. In this study, we investigated the importance of European mole disturbances for the invasion of semi-natural fresh meadows and pastures by the alien plant, Bunias orientalis, which has mainly spread throughout Central Europe on anthropogenically disturbed sites. We hypothesized that the invader, being particularly well adapted to anthropogenic disturbances, enters into dense vegetation of meadows and pastures mainly on mole mounds. To assess the seedling recruitment of B. orientalis in relation to disturbance, we counted the number of seedlings that emerged on molehills and control plots in meadows and pastures. The establishment of juvenile (0-1 year) rosette plants on and off molehills was surveyed on 5×5 m plots. In accordance with our hypothesis, mole disturbances were found to serve as a gateway for B. orientalis by which the invader may colonize semi-natural grasslands. The seedlings of the species emerged almost solely on molehills and the young rosettes were established predominantly on mole mounds. Although the seedling density did not differ significantly between the meadows and pastures, the number of established plants in the pastures was considerably higher. We suggest that the invasion by B. orientalis in pastures may be facilitated by vegetative regeneration following root fragmentation by sheep pasturing.