Impact of invasive plants on the species richness, diversity and composition of invaded communities
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- 1Much attention has been paid to negative effects of alien species on resident communities but studies that quantify community-level effects of a number of invasive plants are scarce. We address this issue by assessing the impact of 13 species invasive in the Czech Republic on a wide range of plant communities.
- 2Vegetation in invaded and uninvaded plots with similar site conditions was sampled. All species of vascular plants were recorded, their covers were estimated and used as importance values for calculating the Shannon diversity index H′, evenness J and Sørensen index of similarity between invaded and uninvaded vegetation.
- 3With the exception of two invasive species, species richness, diversity and evenness were reduced in invaded plots. Species exhibiting the greatest impact reduced species numbers per plot and the total number of species recorded in the communities sampled by almost 90%. A strong reduction of species number at the plot scale resulted in a marked reduction in the total species number at the landscape scale, and in less similarity between invaded and uninvaded vegetation. The decrease in species richness in invaded compared to uninvaded plots is largely driven by the identity of the invading species, whereas the major determinants of the decrease in Shannon diversity and evenness are the cover and height of invading species, and differences between height and cover of invading and dominant native species, independent of species identity.
- 4Synthesis. Management decisions based on impact need to distinguish between invasive species, as their effects on diversity and composition of resident vegetation differ largely. Tall invading species capable of forming populations with the cover markedly greater than that of native dominant species exert the most severe effects on species diversity and evenness. Since a strong impact on the community scale is associated with reduction in species diversity at higher scales, invaders with a high impact represent a serious hazard to the landscape.