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Assessing the vulnerability of riparian vegetation to invasion by Mimulus guttatus: relative importance of biotic and abiotic variables in determining species occurrence and abundance

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Riparian habitats are particularly susceptible to invasion by non-native plants. At present, attempts to build consensus as to what the primary drivers of plant invasion in riparian ecosystems might be is hindered by the absence of common standards for data collected on plant species (e.g. occurrence, or relative abundance). Mimulus guttatus L., a non-native riparian plant species, was used as a model to determine how environmental drivers influence two aspects of invasibility: species occurrence and abundance (assessed in relation to three variables number of patches, patch area and number of stems per patch). Mimulus occurrence and abundance, together with 20 environmental variables, were surveyed in almost 700 contiguous 50-m-long riverbank segments within a catchment in north-east Scotland. More than half of the segments had been colonized by Mimulus. Occurrence and number of patches responded to similar environmental gradients, particularly bare sediment, boulders, high soil moisture, short-statured ruderal communities, and open canopies, and tended to be highest downstream where the river was widest. In contrast to occurrence and patch number, patch area and stem number per patch were higher in the upper reaches of the catchment and were positively associated with low tree canopy and vegetation dominated by light-demanding species and smaller-statured species. Patch area and stem number per patch were also positively related to grazing. This study has highlighted the importance of assessing more than one measure of invasion success (occurrence or patch number and either patch area or stem number per patch), as they are each determined by a different suite of environmental variables. Abiotic factors, such as sediment availability and presence of boulders, appeared to be the major determinants of occurrence and patch number, whereas biotic factors, such as interspecific competition and grazing, were more important ecological determinants underlying area and stem number per patch.
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Keywords: Alien; biological invasions; environmental drivers; exotic species; invasive species; plant strategies; species distribution

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Department of Geography and Environment, University of Aberdeen, Aberdeen AB24 3UF, UK,

Publication date: 2008-03-01

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