The effect of non-native black pine (Pinus nigra J. F. Arnold) plantations on environmental conditions and undergrowth diversity.
The cover of introduced tree species in Europe has recently increased, due to several factors. Attempts to understand the impact of non-native edificator trees on the environmental conditions and diversity of undergrowth have so far been limited to a few studies. In this paper, we analyse the effect of one of the most commonly planted non-native tree species-black pine (Pinus nigra J. F. Arnold) in the Carpathian-Pannonian region, north of the border of its native occurrence. The objectives of our study were to determine the following: (i) How does black pine, as a non-native edificator, change the forest structure and environmental conditions in comparison to those of native communities? (ii) How does black pine change the species composition of undergrowth in comparison to that of native communities? (iii) Which factors are associated with the impact of black pine on diversity? To answer these questions, we used the twin plot method, sampling two neighbouring plots with the same environmental conditions in which one plot of the pair is in a forest with native tree species composition and the second plot is in a planted non-native Pinus nigra plantation. We found that in forests dominated by the non-native black pine, (a) the tree canopy is significantly more open; (b) the cover of the shrub layer is significantly higher; (c) the needles of black pine form a significantly thicker litter layer and (d) the cover of the herb layer is significantly lower than that in the native forest. (e) Black pine plays a vital role in modifying local climate by altering air temperature and humidity; (f) there were no significant differences in the soil pH between black pine plantations and native forests; (g) the plantations of black pine cause changes in diversity at both the species and the community level and (h) the dissimilarity between black pine plantations and neighbouring native forests decreases at higher altitudes.