Questions: Do past disturbance, soil nutrients, or species diversity predict the invasion success of the alien tree Pittosporum undulatum in an island montane rain forest? What are the consequences of its invasion for forest composition and species diversity?
Location: Blue Mountains, Jamaica.
Methods: Censuses of trees ≥ 3 cm DBH in permanent plots in four sites within ca. 7 ha; 1974–2004 (intensive sites) and in 16 plots within 250 ha; 1990–2004 (extensive plots).
Results: Pittosporum was unrecorded in the intensive sites before a severe hurricane in 1988: by 2004 all four sites were invaded. Pittosporum had invaded 25% of the extensive plots in 1990 and 69% in 2004, where its basal area increased from 0.5 ± 0.4 (SEM) m2.ha−1 in 1990 to 2.8 ± 1.3 m2.ha−1 in 2004. It had zero stem mortality and diameter growth rate exceeded that of native species fourfold. Pittosporum's basal area in the extensive plots in 2004 was positively related to the stand basal area damaged in the 1988 hurricane and negatively related to soil N concentrations. Pittosporum invasion was unrelated to stand-level tree species diversity in the extensive plots but as its basal area increased over time the basal area of native species and stand-level diversity declined.
Conclusions: There are no obvious functional attributes of Pittosporum unrepresented in the native tree flora although it has high photosynthetic efficiency compared with native trees. More widespread invasion of these forests by Pittosporum seems inevitable since hurricanes, which accelerated the invasion, affect these forests frequently.
Nomenclature: Adams (1972) except where other authorities given.