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Comparing naturalized alien plants and recipient habitats across an east–west gradient in the Mediterranean Basin

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Abstract Aim 

To investigate alien plant species invasion levels in different habitats and alien species traits by comparing the naturalized flora in different areas of the same biogeographical region. Location 

Spain, Italy, Greece and Cyprus. Methods 

Comparison of floristic composition, species traits and recipient habitats of naturalized alien neophytes across an east–west gradient comprising four countries in the European Mediterranean basin. Results 

A total of 782 naturalized neophytes were recorded; only 30 species were present in all four countries. Although floristic similarity is low, the four alien floras share the same patterns of growth form (mostly herbs), life cycle (mostly perennials) and life form (mostly therophytes, hemicryptophytes and phanerophytes). The majority of the recipient habitats were artificial. Wetlands were the natural habitats, with the highest numbers of naturalized species. Floristic similarity analyses revealed: (1) the highest floristic similarity between Italy and Spain, both of which were more similar to Greece than to Cyprus; (2) two groups of floristic similarity between habitat categories in each country (Greece–Cyprus and Italy–Spain); (3) a higher degree of homogenization in the plant assemblages in different habitats in Greece and Cyprus and a lower degree of homogenization in those in Italy and Spain; and (4) a higher degree of homogenization in artificial and natural fresh-water habitats than in the other natural habitats. Main conclusions 

The floristic similarity of naturalized neophytes between the four countries is low, although the overall analysis indicates that the western group (Italy–Spain) is separated from the eastern group (Greece–Cyprus). Similar patterns emerged regarding the life-history traits and recipient habitats. The artificial habitats and the natural wet habitats are those that are invaded most and display the greatest homogenization in all four countries. Coastal habitats display a lower degree of homogenization but a high frequency of aliens. Dry shrubs and rocky habitats display a lower degree of homogenization and a low frequency of aliens.
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Keywords: Biological invasions; European Mediterranean countries; biotic homogenization; floristic similarity; invasibility; level of invasion; naturalized plants; plant traits

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: Department of Botany, Faculty of Biology, University of Athens, 15784 Greece 2: Department of Plant Biology, Sapienza University, Piazzale Aldo Moro 5, 00185 Rome, Italy 3: Center for Ecological Research and Forestry Applications (CREAF), Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona, 08193 Bellaterra, Spain 4: Botanical Garden, Department of Ecology and Systematics, Faculty of Biology, National and Kapodistrian University of Athens, 15784 Greece 5: Department of Ecology and Systematics, Faculty of Biology, National and Kapodistrian University of Athens, 15784 Greece 6: Estación Biológica de Doñana (EBD-CSIC), Avda. Américo Vespucio, s/n Isla de la Cartuja, E-41092 Sevilla, Spain

Publication date: 01 September 2010

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