The invasive species Ulex europaeus (Fabaceae) shows high dynamism in a fragmented landscape of south-central Chile.
Ulex europaeus (gorse) is an invasive shrub deemed as one of the most invasive species in the world. U. europaeus is widely distributed in the south-central area of Chile, which is considered a world hotspot for biodiversity conservation. In addition to its negative effects on the biodiversity of natural ecosystems, U. europaeus is one of the most severe pests for agriculture and forestry. Despite its importance as an invasive species, U. europaeus has been little studied. Although information exists on the potential distribution of the species, the interaction of the invasion process with the spatial dynamic of the landscape and the landscape-scale factors that control the presence or absence of the species is still lacking. We studied the spatial and temporal dynamics of the landscape and how these relate to U. europaeus invasion in south-central Chile. We used supervised classification of satellite images to determine the spatial distribution of the species and other land covers for the years 1986 and 2003, analysing the transitions between the different land covers. We used logistic regression for modelling the increase, decrease and permanence of U. europaeus invasion considering landscape variables. Results showed that the species covers only around 1% of the study area and showed a 42% reduction in area for the studied period. However, U. europaeus was the cover type which presented the greatest dynamism in the landscape. We found a strong relationship between changes in land cover and the invasion process, especially connected with forest plantations of exotic species, which promotes the displacement of U. europaeus. The model of gorse cover increase presented the best performance, and the most important predictors were distance to seed source and landscape complexity index. Our model predicted high spread potential of U. europaeus in areas of high conservation value. We conclude that proper management for this invasive species must take into account the spatial dynamics of the landscape within the invaded area in order to address containment, control or mitigation of the invasion.