Regional assessment of plant invasions across different habitat types
Alien plant, EUNIS, Mediterranean community, Relevé, Species richness, Vegetation type
Questions: 1. Which habitats have the highest degree of invasion? 2. Do native species-rich communities have also a high degree of invasion? 3. Do the patterns of association between native and alien species richness vary between habitats. Location: Catalonia region (NE Spain). Methods: We conducted a large regional analysis of 15 655 phytosociological relevés to detect differences in the degree of invasion between European Nature Information System (EUNIS) habitats representative of temperate and Mediterranean European areas. Results: Alien species were present in less than 17 % of the relevés and represented less than 2% of the total number of species per habitat. The EUNIS habitats with the highest alien species richness were arable land and gardens followed by anthropogenic forb-rich habitats, riverine and lakeshore scrubs, southern riparian galleries and thickets and trampled areas. In contrast, the following habitats had never any alien species: surface running waters, raised and blanket bogs, valley mires, poor fens and transition mires, base-rich fens, alpine and sub-alpine grasslands, sub-alpine moist or wet tall-herb and fern habitats, alpine and sub-alpine scrub habitats and spiny Mediterranean heaths. There was a unimodal relationship between the mean native and mean alien species richness per EUNIS habitat with a high number of aliens in habitats with intermediate number of native species and a low number of aliens at both extremes of the native species gradient. Within EUNIS habitats, the relationship was positive, negative or non-significant depending on the habitat type without any clear pattern related to the number of native species. Alien species richness was not related to plot size, neither between habitats nor within habitats. Conclusions: The analysis emphasised that the habitats with a higher degree of invasion were the most disturbed ones and that in general habitats rich in native species did not harbour less invaders than habitats poor in native species.