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How did common ragweed (Ambrosia artemisiifolia L.) spread in Québec? A historical analysis using herbarium records

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Abstract  Aim 

To reconstruct the spread of common ragweed (Ambrosia artemisiifolia L.; Asteraceae) using herbarium specimens to document whether the habitat preferences of this plant have shifted through time. Location 

Southern Québec. Methods 

Herbarium specimens stored in the main herbaria of southern Québec were used to reconstruct the spread of common ragweed. All data (sampling location, year of sampling, habitat characteristics, etc.) were incorporated into a geographical information system. Maps indicating the spatial distribution of common ragweed were produced for four time periods. The cumulative number of locations was plotted against time to construct invasion curves. The sequence of habitats where herbarium specimens were collected was also reconstructed. Results 

A data base incorporating 707 common ragweed herbarium specimens was constructed for this study. The spread of common ragweed in most regions of southern Québec was initiated at the beginning of the 20th century. Herbarium specimens suggest that common ragweed first spread along river corridors. Specimens of common ragweed were not collected in agricultural fields before the mid-1920s, nor along roads and railways before the mid-1930s. The colonization of a large number of agricultural fields by common ragweed probably began with seed-contaminated crops, but was certainly accelerated by the dispersal of seeds from populations growing along nearby roads. Main conclusions 

Herbarium specimens suggest that common ragweed has been present in southern Québec for at least 200 years, but the species was probably restricted to the Montréal area during the 19th century. It is likely that the development of the road network in Québec since the mid-1930s significantly contributed to the spread of common ragweed. Controlling common ragweed solely in agricultural fields would not prevent the re-infestation of crops, because roadsides would act as refuges for the weed.
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Keywords: Agriculture; Ambrosia artemisiifolia; Québec; biological invasion; common ragweed; corridor; herbarium specimen; river; road

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: 2007-10-01

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