Alien plants in Central European river ports.
River ports represent a special type of urbanized area. They are considered to be an important driver of biological invasion and biotic homogenization on a global scale, but it remains unclear how and to what degree they serve as a pool of alien species. Data for 54 river ports (16 German, 20 Czech, 7 Hungarian, 3 Slovak, and 8 Austrian ports) on two important Central European waterways (the Elbe-Vltava and Danube waterways) were collected over 40 years. In total, 1056 plant species were found. Of these, 433 were alien, representing 41% of the total number of species found in all the studied Elbe, Vltava, and Danube ports. During comparison of floristic data from literary sources significant differences in the percentage of alien species in ports (50%) and cities (38%) were found. The number of alien species was closely related to port size, but the proportion of alien species expressed as a percentage of the total number of species did not depend significantly on port area. The proportion of alien species in both studied waterways decreased with distance from the sea and was highest in the Hungarian ports and lowest in the Czech Republic, Austria and Bavaria. Lower levels of shipping towards inland regions due to decreased river flow are likely the reason for this trend. The dissimilarity in the species composition of alien and native flora between individual river ports increased with increasing inter-port distance. Neophytes presented a stronger distance decay pattern than did either native species or archaeophytes of the Danube inland ports, potentially due to the different cargoes of individual ports, which may affect the introduction of different neophytes from different geographic areas. The results show that river ports in Central Europe should be regarded as a type of industrial area and deserve full attention with regard to the distribution and spread of alien plants.