Publication details

Alien plant invasions in Mediterranean habitats: an assessment for Sicily



Year of publication 2021
Type Article in Periodical
Magazine / Source Biological Invasions
MU Faculty or unit

Faculty of Science

Keywords Alien species; Biogeographical status; Flowering season; Life form; EUNIS; European vegetation archive
Description Levels of plant invasions in different habitat types were assessed in several regional studies, but few of them were from the Mediterranean. Here we compare the levels of vascular plant invasion across habitats and plant communities of Sicily. We used a large dataset of plant species presences/absences in vegetation plots to analyze the invasion patterns across habitats considering biogeography, life form and phenology of alien plants. Vegetation plots were classified based on the EUNIS classification of European habitats. The invasiveness of each species was expressed in terms of its absolute and percentage frequency. Representation of different life forms and phenological patterns was compared between alien and native species. The fidelity of alien species to individual habitats was calculated using the phi coefficient. Our analysis shows that annual and woody species are the most represented life forms in the alien flora of Sicily and that alien species tend to have a longer flowering period than the native species. The investigated habitats differed strongly in their level of invasion by alien species, ranging from 0 to 15.6% of aliens of all species recorded. Most of the habitats were colonized by very few alien species or completely lacked them, except for sandy coasts, naturally-disturbed riverbeds, and synanthropic habitats. It must be noted, however, that the number of alien species occurring in a given habitat does not relate to the severity of the impact of invasion in that habitat. Some habitats are invaded by few (or single) species, which attain a high cover, transforming the whole ecosystem. The habitat-based approach proved to be suitable for evaluating the habitat specificity and frequency of alien species at a regional scale, improving the capacity for risk assessment in different ecological contexts.
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