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A dendro-ecological study of forest overstorey productivity following the invasion of the non-indigenous shrub Lonicera maackii

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Question: Will a non-indigenous, invasive, understorey shrub, such as Lonicera maackii (Amur honeysuckle) have an impact on the productivity of overstorey trees in hardwood forests?

Location:Trees from 12 invaded and four non-invaded sites were sampled in hardwood forests of southwestern Ohio, US.

Methods: Changes in radial and basal area tree growth in the ten years prior to L. maackii invasion vs. ten years after invasion were examined using dendrochronological techniques. Intervention analysis was used to detect growth changes 25 years prior to and 25 years following invasion, and estimates of load impacts for L. maackii population and biomass were also calculated.

Results: We found that the rate of radial and basal area growth of overstorey trees was reduced significantly in eleven out of twelve invaded sites. Non-invaded sites did not exhibit this consistent pattern of reduced growth. For invaded vs. non-invaded sites, the mean basal area growth was reduced by 15.8%, and the overall rate of basal area growth was reduced by 53.1%. Intervention analysis revealed that the first significant growth reductions were 6.25 ± 1.24 (mean ± SE) years after invasion with the greatest frequency of negative growth changes occurring 20 years after invasion. In invaded stands, 41% of trees experienced negative growth changes. In terms of invasive load estimates per 1000 L. maackii individuals, radial tree growth was reduced by 0.56 mm.a−1, and basal area growth was reduced by 0.74 cm2.a−1. Given these findings, significant economic losses could occur in hardwood forests of Ohio.

Conclusions: To our knowledge, this is the first study using dendrochronological techniques to investigate the impact of a non-indigenous, understorey plant on overstorey tree growth. Active management will likely be needed to maintain forest productivity in L. maackii impacted landscapes.


Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: April 1, 2007

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