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Keywords:

  • Biological invasions;
  • natural enemies;
  • naturalization hypothesis;
  • phylogenetic relatedness;
  • propagule pressure;
  • tree invasions

Abstract

Aim  Conifers are invasive species in many parts of the world, especially in the Southern Hemisphere. There are many introduced conifers in Europe, but their status as alien species is poorly documented. We conducted a comprehensive literature review to ascertain the extent to which alien conifers can be considered invasive.

Location  Europe.

Methods  We reviewed the historical record of alien conifer invasion in Europe (i.e. species with a native range outside the continental boundaries of Europe) by screening the DAISIE database and the ISI Web of Science.

Results  According to DAISIE, there are 54 alien conifer species in Europe. Pseudotsuga menziesii is the species recorded as naturalized in the most countries (12) and the UK is the country with the most naturalized species (18). Thirty-seven of these conifers have been studied, to some extent, in a total of 131 papers (212 records). Nevertheless, only a few papers have investigated aspects related to biological invasions. In fact, the species are not referred to as alien by the authors in more than half of the papers (66%). Twenty-five per cent of the papers have investigated plant traits, 46% are about biotic and abiotic factors influencing tree performance and 29% deal with ecological and economic impacts. Most papers are related to entomology, dealing with natural enemies affecting the alien conifers.

Main conclusions  Scientists have not yet perceived alien conifers in Europe as problematic species. Moreover, the low introduction effort, long lag-time since plantation and phylogenetic closeness between alien and native conifers are possible reasons for their low expansion in Europe to date. From a management point of view, careful observations of sites with alien conifers is necessary to watch for new invasions. From a scientific perspective, thorough analyses of the extent that introduction, rates of naturalization and biogeographical differences influence invasive spread between the two hemispheres will prove timely.