Invasive Species Compendium

Detailed coverage of invasive species threatening livelihoods and the environment worldwide

Abstract

Effects of Ailanthus altissima invasion and removal on high-biodiversity Mediterranean grasslands.

Abstract

Ailanthus altissima is one of the worst invasive plants in Europe in several habitat types, including high-biodiversity grasslands. The aim of this work was to evaluate the impact of the invasive A. altissima on high-biodiversity grassland vegetation and the effects of its removal on the recovery of native plant communities. The study area was within the Alta Murgia National Park (SE Italy). Seventeen vegetation quadrats were sampled in invaded grasslands and nine quadrats were sampled in nearby uninvaded areas. A. altissima was removed from six quadrats, which were sampled for two years after plant removal. Cluster analysis and non-metric multidimensional scaling ordination were used to identify and visualize the general vegetation pattern. Generalised Linear Models with different error structures were used to analyse the effects of A. altissima on native grasslands and vegetation recovery after removal. Results showed that the invasion of A. altissima changed drastically the community composition, reduced plant richness and diversity. Invaded stands had a greater presence of ruderal and widely distributed taxa, as opposed to a lesser presence of endemic and Mediterranean ones. The differences in the community composition between invaded and uninvaded quadrats became clearly detectable when A. altissima plants exceeded a threshold of 1 m of height and 50% of coverage. After A. altissima removal, the recovery of the grassland community was not completely achieved after two years.