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Are island plant communities more invaded than their mainland counterparts?


  • Co-ordinating Editor: Dr. Valério Pillar.

Vilà, M. (corresponding author: & Montero, A. ( Estación Biológica de Doñana (EBD-CSIC), Avda. Américo Vespucio s/n, Isla de la Cartuja, 41092 Sevilla, Spain.
Pino, J. ( CREAF (Center for Ecological Research and Forestry Applications) and Unit of Ecology, Department of Animal and Plant Biology and Ecology, Autonomous University of Barcelona, 08193 Bellaterra, Spain.
Font, X. ( Plant Biology Department, University of Barcelona, Diagonal 645, 08028 Barcelona, Spain.


Questions: Are island vegetation communities more invaded than their mainland counterparts? Is this pattern consistent among community types?

Location: The coastal provinces of Catalonia and the para-oceanic Balearic Islands, both in NE Spain. These islands were connected to the continent more than 5.35 million years ago and are now located <200 km from the coast.

Methods: We compiled a database of almost 3000 phytosociological relevés from the Balearic Islands and Catalonia and compared the level of invasion by alien plants in island versus mainland communities. Twenty distinct plant community types were compared between island and mainland counterparts.

Results: The percentage of plots with alien species, number, percentage and cover percentage of alien species per plot was greater in Catalonia than in the Balearic Islands in most communities. Overall, across communities, more alien species were found in the mainland (53) compared to the islands (only nine). Despite these differences, patterns of the level of invasion in communities were highly consistent between the islands and mainland. The most invaded communities were ruderal and riparian.

Main conclusion: Our results indicate that para-oceanic island communities such as the Balearic Islands are less invaded than their mainland counterparts. This difference reflects a smaller regional alien species pool in the Balearic Islands than in the adjacent mainland, probably due to differences in landscape heterogeneity and propagule pressure.