Invasive Species Compendium

Detailed coverage of invasive species threatening livelihoods and the environment worldwide

Abstract

Invasive alien palm Pinanga coronata threatens native tree ferns in an oceanic island rainforest.

Abstract

Invasive ornamental plants are a global problem that can have severe impacts on native biodiversity, especially on islands. To determine whether the invasive, ornamental ivory-cane palm Pinanga coronata could be displacing native biodiversity, we investigated its co-distribution with native tree ferns in a Fijian rainforest. We recorded the abundances of P. coronata and tree ferns and related these to environmental variables using linear models and generalised linear mixed-effect models (GLMMs). Distance to an introduction site was the most significant factor predicting the palm's distribution and abundance, suggesting that its current distribution is limited by insufficient time for wider dispersal. P. coronata cover was strongly and negatively related with the abundance of native tree ferns and the palm may therefore be displacing native tree ferns. This relationship was strongest with tree fern seedlings and weakest with mature tree ferns, implying that the palm is preventing the establishment of native tree ferns. This study thus provides strong circumstantial evidence that P. coronata is progressively displacing native tree ferns by preventing seedling establishment and poses a severe threat to Fiji's native biodiversity and ecological processes. Therefore, urgent management is required to control and prevent the further spread of P. coronata and its negative impacts on native plant biodiversity. Management should involve an initial feasibility study to determine the effectiveness of various management strategies, followed by targeted control and/or eradication campaigns and long-term monitoring. Ultimately, well implemented legislation to prevent the spread and introduction of P. coronata and other ornamental plants will be crucial to protect native biodiversity in Fiji and elsewhere.