High canopy cover of invasive Acer negundo L. affects ground vegetation taxonomic richness.
We assessed the link between canopy cover degree and ground vegetation taxonomic richness under alien ash-leaved maple (Acer negundo) and other (native or alien) tree species. We investigated urban and suburban forests in the large city of Yekaterinburg, Russia. Forests were evaluated on two spatial scales. Through an inter-habitat comparison we recorded canopy cover and plant taxonomic richness among 13 sample plots of 20 × 20 m where A. negundo dominated and 13 plots where other tree species dominated. In an intra-habitat comparison, we recorded canopy cover and ground vegetation taxonomic richness among 800 sample plots measuring 1 m2 in the extended urbanised forest, which featured abundant alien (308 plots) and native trees (492 plots). We observed decreased taxonomic richness among vascular ground plant species by 40% (inter-habitat) and 20% (intra-habitat) in areas dominated by A. negundo compared to areas dominated by native tree and shrub species. An abundance of A. negundo was accompanied by increased canopy cover. We found a negative relationship between canopy cover and the number of understory herbaceous species. Thus, the interception of light and the restriction of its amount for other species is a main factor supporting the negative influence of A. negundo on native plant communities.