Effects of landscape structure on the invasive spread of black cherry Prunus serotina in an agricultural landscape in Flanders, Belgium


  • Bart Deckers,

  • Kris Verheyen,

  • Martin Hermy,

  • Bart Muys

B. Deckers (bart.deckers@agr.kuleuven.ac.be), K. Verheyen, M. Hermy and B. Muys, Lab. of Forest, Nature and Landscape Research, Katholieke Univ. Leuven, Vital Decosterstr. 102, B-3000 Leuven, Belgium.


Analysing invasive spread from a landscape ecological perspective forms an important challenge in plant invasion ecology. The present study examines the effects of landscape structure on the spatial and temporal dynamics of an expanding black cherry Prunus serotina population within a rural landscape in Flanders, Belgium, carrying a dense network of interconnected hedgerows. The study area, 251 ha in size, harboured a total of 2962 P. serotina individuals. The population was characterised by a negative exponential age distribution, a high growth rate and an early and continuous reproduction throughout the species’ life cycle. The historical rate of spread of the species through the hedgerow network progressively increased with time, especially during the last decade. Spatial point pattern analysis revealed that the individuals had a significantly clustered distribution pattern and were spatially aggregated around seed sources, hedgerow intersections and roosting trees. Logistic regression analysis confirmed the effect of landscape structure on P. serotina occurrence, suggesting directional long distance dispersal by avian dispersal vectors, resulting in a differential seed pressure throughout the hedgerow network due to the preference of dispersing birds for roosting in structurally rich hedgerow with large trees near hedgerow intersections. Hence, the distribution of P. serotina in agricultural landscapes was strongly mediated by dispersal processes. Furthermore, decreasing spatial aggregation along the species life cycle, with especially seedlings and saplings being significantly aggregated while adult individuals were mostly distributed at random, and a relative outward shift of seedling recruitment curves with time indicate density dependent mortality, probably caused by intraspecific competition.