Elevated native terrestrial snail abundance and diversity in association with an invasive understory shrub, Berberis thunbergii, in a North American deciduous forest.
Invasive terrestrial plants often substantially reshape environments, yet how such invasions affect terrestrial snail assemblages remains understudied. We investigated how snail assemblages in deciduous forest soils with dense Berberis thunbergii (Japanese barberry), an invasive shrub in eastern North America, differ from forest areas lacking the shrub. Leaf litter and soil samples were collected from forest patches with dense B. thunbergii understories and adjacent control areas within two exurban forest tracts in western Pennsylvania, U.S.A. Snails were identified to species and quantified by standard diversity metrics. Contrary to our expectations, snails were significantly more abundant and diverse in B. thunbergii-invaded areas. Despite differences in abundance, the snail community composition did not differ between invaded and control habitats. The terrestrial snail assemblage we observed, which was composed entirely of native species, appears to respond favorably to B. thunbergii invasion and therefore may not be negatively impacted by physicochemical changes to soils typically observed in association with the plant. Such findings could reflect the fact that B. thunbergii likely creates more favorable habitat for snails by creating cooler, more humid, and more alkaline soil environments. However, the snail assemblages we retrieved may consist mostly of species with high tolerance to environmental degradation due to a legacy of land use change and acid deposition in the region.