Invasive Species Compendium

Detailed coverage of invasive species threatening livelihoods and the environment worldwide

Abstract

Graminoid invasion in an insular endemism hotspot and its protected areas.

Abstract

Invasive plant species are increasingly altering species composition and the functioning of ecosystems from a local to a global scale. The grass species Pennisetum setaceum has recently raised concerns as an invader on different archipelagos worldwide. Among these affected archipelagos are the Canary Islands, which are a hotspot of endemism. Consequently, conservation managers and stakeholders are interested in the potential spreading of this species in the archipelago. We identify the current extent of the suitable habitat for P. setaceum on the island of La Palma to assess how it affects island ecosystems, protected areas (PAs), and endemic plant species richness. We recorded in situ occurrences of P. setaceum from 2010 to 2018 and compiled additional ones from databases at a 500 m × 500 m resolution. To assess the current suitable habitat and possible distribution patterns of P. setaceum on the island, we built an ensemble model. We projected habitat suitability for island ecosystems and PAs and identified risks for total as well as endemic plant species richness. The suitable habitat for P. setaceum is calculated to cover 34.7% of the surface of La Palma. In open ecosystems at low to mid elevations, where native ecosystems are already under pressure by land use and human activities, the spread of the invader will likely lead to additional threats to endemic plant species. Forest ecosystems (e.g., broadleaved evergreen and coniferous forests) are not likely to be affected by the spread of P. setaceum because of its heliophilous nature. Our projection of suitable habitat of P. setaceum within ecosystems and PAs on La Palma supports conservationists and policymakers in prioritizing management and control measures and acts as an example for the potential threat of this graminoid invader on other islands.