Landscape-scale patterns of alien plant species on coastal dunes: the case of iceplant in central Italy


  • Co-ordinating Editor: Dr Ralf Ohlemuller

*Corresponding author; Fax +39 874 404123; E-mail


Question: We investigated the spatial pattern of coastal landscapes invaded by iceplant (Carpobrotus aff. acinaciformis) focusing on two questions: (1) Does the spatial structure of iceplant patches differ from that of native natural costal dune cover types?; (2) Is the distribution of iceplant patches related to other cover types?

Location: Tyrrhenian coast of Central Italy.

Method: On the basis of a detailed land-cover map, we calculated structural metrics for iceplant patches and for each native coastal dune cover category (mean patch size and patch shape index) and compared them by means of anova. To assess the spatial association between iceplant patches and the different cover types, we implemented an electivity analysis which analyses the frequency of common borders.

Results: The mapped coastal dune cover types included beaches, dunes and sand plain variants, related to the typical Tyrrhenian coastal dune vegetation zonation. Iceplant-dominated vegetation presented elongated and irregularly shaped patches, which were not significantly different from most of the natural cover types suggesting a natural spread along the territory analysed. Iceplant patches were positively associated with beach, mobile and inter-dune cover types indicating that these habitats are exposed to further alien spread. Iceplant patches were also positively associated with artificial surfaces highlighting this cover type as a possible source of propagule pressure.

Conclusions: The proposed landscape approach combining patch-based metrics with edge-based metrics provided a comprehensive description of the invaded coastal landscape. From an applied research perspective, this landscape approach could be useful in identifying the correct management strategies for alien-invaded areas.