Question: Do anthropogenic disturbances interact with local environmental factors to increase the abundance and frequency of invasive species, which in turn exerts a negative effect on native biodiversity?
Location: Mature Quercus-Carya and Quercus-Carya-Pinus (oak-hickory-pine) forests in north Mississippi, USA.
Methods: We used partial correlation and factor analysis to investigate relationships between native ground cover plant species richness and composition, percent cover of Lonicera japonica, and local and landscape-level environmental variables and disturbance patterns in mature upland forests. We directly measured vegetation and environmental variables within 34 sampling subplots and quantified the amount of tree cover surrounding our plots using digital color aerial photography.
Results: Simple bivariate correlations revealed that high species richness and a high proportion of herbs were associated with low Lonicera japonica cover, moist and sandy uncompacted soils, low disturbance in the surrounding landscape, and periodic prescribed burning. Partial correlations and factor analysis showed that once we accounted for the environmental factors, L. japonica cover was the least important predictor of composition and among the least important predictors of species richness. Hence, much of the negative correlation between native species diversity and this invasive species was explained by soil texture and local and landscape-level land-use practices.
Conclusions: We conclude that negative correlations between the abundance of invasive species and native plant diversity can occur in landscapes with a gradient of human disturbance, regardless of whether there is any negative effect of invasive species on native species.
Nomenclature: Radford et al. (1968).