Invasive Species Compendium

Detailed coverage of invasive species threatening livelihoods and the environment worldwide

Abstract

Assessing the relative importance of human and spatial pressures on non-native plant establishment in urban forests using citizen science.

Abstract

Since 2007, more people in the world live in urban than in rural areas. The development of urban areas has encroached into natural forest ecosystems, consequently increasing the ecological importance of parks and fragmented forest remnants. However, a major concern is that urban activities have rendered urban forests susceptible to non-native species incursions, making them central entry sites where non-native plant species can establish and spread. We have little understanding of what urban factors contribute to this process. Here we use data collected by citizen scientists to determine the differential impacts of spatial and urban factors on non-native plant introductions in urban forests. Using a model city, we mapped 18 urban forests within city limits, and identified all the native and non-native plants present at those sites. We then determined the relative contribution of spatial and socioeconomic variables on the richness and composition of native and non-native plant communities. We found that socioeconomic factors rather than spatial factors (e.g., urban forest area) were important modulators of overall or non-native species richness. Non-native species richness in urban forest fragments was primarily affected by residential layout, recent construction events, and nearby roads. This demonstrates that the proliferation of non-native species is inherent to urban activities and we propose that future studies replicate our approach in different cities to broaden our understanding of the spatial and social factors that modulate invasive species movement starting in urban areas.