Impacts of invasive trees on alpha and beta diversity of temperate forest understories.
Despite good recognition of distributions and spread mechanisms of the three most invasive trees in Europe (Prunus serotina, Quercus rubra and Robinia pseudoacacia), their impacts on forest biodiversity are unevenly recognized. Most studies cover only taxonomic alpha diversity, and only a single study included functional and phylogenetic diversity. Using a set of 186 study plots in western Poland we assessed the impacts of these invasive tree species on the alpha and beta taxonomic, functional and phylogenetic diversity of understory vascular plants. Alpha diversity was higher in R. pseudoacacia forests and lower in Q. rubra forests compared to mature native forests. Compared to non-invaded plantations and forests, alpha diversity was higher in P. sylvestris plantations invaded by P. serotina, but lower in invaded nutrient-poor P. sylvestris forests. Alien species richness was higher and beta diversity was lower in forests invaded by P. serotina or R. pseudoacacia than in non-invaded forests. In contrast, beta diversity was higher in Q. rubra forests than in native forests. We proved that invaded forests differed from non-invaded forests in species composition, but not always with decreased alpha and beta diversity. Impacts of particular invasive species also depended on the reference ecosystem properties (here mature native forests, which did not always have the highest biodiversity), which is a source of inconsistency in previous studies, usually referring to single native ecosystem types.