Composition, introduction history and invasion status of alien flora in Dachigam National Park of Kashmir Himalaya.
Protected areas (PAs) hold pivotal importance as repositories of biodiversity, especially for some flagship species of high conservation priority. The growing threat of biological invasions in PAs defies the general perception that these areas are rather immune to invasions. Given the paucity of information on the status of biological invasions in the Himalayan PAs, here we developed a well-annotated inventory of alien flora in Dachigam National Park (DNP) through intensive field surveys for the period of 2 years (2019-2021) and recorded 56 alien species with majority (50 species) as neophytes and 6 archaeophyte species belonging to 48 genera and 26 families. Of these alien plant species, 43% species are naturalized, 29% invasive, 20% cultivated, 4% casual aliens and 5% either cultivated or casual. Amongst different natural habitat types investigated in DNP, the grasslands and riparian habitats were found to be most prone to invasive species. These invasions are attributed to myriad of anthropogenic pressure and growing human-footprint in and outside the DNP. The checklist of alien plant species containing useful information on invasion status, growth form, nativity, mode and purpose of introduction is an important tool with the managers of the PA for keen monitoring and effective management of invasive species in the DNP. In view of UN Decade for Ecosystem Restoration (2021-30), the PA managers can use this checklist to plan their strategies well for restoration of invaded habitats and preventing further invasions in tune with the CBD Programme of Work on Protected Areas. So we recommend preparing such checklists for other PAs as well in view of importance this baseline information to deal with invasion-driven changes.