Invasive Species Compendium

Detailed coverage of invasive species threatening livelihoods and the environment worldwide

Abstract

Climatic and anthropogenic factors affect Ailanthus altissima invasion in a Mediterranean region.

Abstract

Ailanthus altissima is an aggressive invasive tree worldwide, but the ecological factors that lead to the spread of this species in Mediterranean ecosystems are still unclear. Here we aim to identify such factors, focusing on the interaction of human activity with climatic conditions. We determined the occurrence and abundance of Ailanthus in 240 sites and studied their relationship with 20 variables representing climatic, geographic, and topographic factors, as well as land use, in the region of Campania (southern Italy). Overall, we found that temperature and rainfall in Campania are suitable for Ailanthus, with the only major constraint being the temperature at an altitude exceeding 900 m a.s.l.. We found that Ailanthus is unable to spread where the mean annual temperature is lower than 11.1°C. By contrast, precipitation variables showed poor correlation with Ailanthus distribution, suggesting that rainfall in the selected study sites is suitable to sustain the growth of this tree. About land use variables, roads were the primary landscape feature along which this species spread and invaded new areas. Roads probably combine high propagule pressure and favorable growing conditions in terms of available resources i.e., light, water, and mineral nutrients, that allow Ailanthus to establish and spread along roadside edges in different ecosystems. In conclusion, we found that climate and human-associated variables are correlated with the current occurrence of Ailanthus, with the temperature being more influential at high elevation sites and road distance playing a prominent role in low elevation areas.