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Keywords:

  • Classification trees;
  • flood irrigation;
  • invasive species;
  • logistic regression;
  • traditional management;
  • weediness

Abstract

In addition to their impact on natural habitats, invasive alien plants can have a significant negative effect on agricultural systems and cause economic losses. Flood-irrigated orchards in the Mediterranean Basin are vulnerable to the invasion of alien weeds, primarily because of the traditional management practices used in the orchards, which are characterized by high soil moisture during the dry summer period, nutrient availability and high levels of disturbance. This study sought to determine whether their biological traits can explain the success of alien weed species. To answer this question, 408 floristic relevés were conducted in 136 flood-irrigated orchards on the Plains of Lleida (Catalonia, NE of Spain). Richness and cover of native and alien weeds were compared. Furthermore, a set of biological traits were compared between successful and non-successful weeds for the whole data and separately between native and alien weeds using logistic regression and classification trees. In flood-irrigated orchards, alien species covered most of their area, even though the richness of alien species was lower than that of the native species. The most important species were C4 species with seeds dispersed by water, and on the other hand, rosulate and caespitose-reptant hemicryptophytes with long flowering period. Most of these traits fitted with those of the invasive alien weeds, which were mostly C4 species with seeds dispersed by water. Perennial life form characterized successful native weeds. In this study, we discuss how the traditional management of flood irrigation in fruit-tree orchards favours invasive alien weeds that have specific traits, acting as a reservoir for the spread of alien weeds into other crops and surrounding riparian habitats. We also propose changing management practices in order to avoid the selection of alien weeds and to promote native species.