Propagule pressure, presence of roads, and microsite variability influence dispersal of introduced Quercus rubra in temperate Pinus sylvestris forest.
The effective sustainable management of introduced woody species requires understanding of the mechanisms which affect successful colonization in different forest habitats. We studied the spontaneous spread of the alien species - Northern red oak (Quercus rubra) in the Scots pine (Pinus sylvestris) forest located in Poland. We analysed the impacts of seed source distance, presence of and distance from linear structures (public and forest roads) in the landscape, as well as microhabitat diversity, on the distribution of juvenile red oaks. We also studied the effects of types of acorn deposition sites (under shrubs, within clumps of Vaccinium myrtillus, in the open), and ways of seed burial (in moss wefts, in rodent corridors) by animal seed hoarders on seed germination and seedling growth. Field data were collected in six transect lines divided into 3300 plots (1 m2 each). We found that Q. rubra efficiently colonizes Scots pine monoculture. Results of spatially explicit hierarchical generalized linear models showed that distance from acorn sources and occurrence of sparse shrub layers are the most important predictors of Q. rubra ecological success, defined as establishment of juvenile specimens. The presence of roads - potential migration corridors for avian and mammalian acorn consumers/dispersers - favoured non-random red oak spread. The "nurse effect" of native understory components on red oak seed germination and seedling growth was indicated by higher numbers of juvenile specimens as well as by higher proportions of germinated seeds noted under shrubs than in open areas (without shrubs) or within clumps of V. myrtillus. All red oaks developed from seeds buried in compact moss wefts or in spacious caches and corridors created by rodents in the moss layer, which indicated a positive "burial effect". We conclude that microhabitats make the Scots pine forests very suitable for Q. rubra invasion. Because of the wide distribution of numerous red oak stands in European temperate forests and the presence of numerous oak seed dispersers, the continuous colonization of widespread Scots pine monocultures by Q. rubra must be expected.