FLORA ECOSYSTEMS | Europe already has more than 100 species of invasive plants

There are more than one hundred species of invasive plants in Europe. This is reflected in the first database of field studies on the impacts of invasive plants on species, communities and native ecosystems in Europe, prepared by a scientific team, in which the Doñana Biological Station (EBD-CSIC) has participated. ) and the Pyrenean Institute of Ecology (IPE-CSIC).

The name of the database, the first harmonized free access database on a continental scale, is ‘Plantimpactseurope‘, and is based on data from 266 scientific publications that describe the results of 4,259 field studies in 104 invasive species in 29 European countries, as reported by the CSIC. The work has been published in the journal ‘NeoBiota’.

‘Plantimpactseurope’ has information on invasive plants that affect other plants, animals and microbes. This information is shown based on all trophic levels (herbivores, parasites, plants, pollinators, predators, omnivores, decomposers and symbionts) and numerous ecosystem processes.

A third of the studies collected in ‘Plantimpactseurope’ are focused on five invasive species: Reynoutria japonica, Impatiens glandulifera, Solidago gigantea, Carpobrotus edulis and Robinia pseudoacacia. AND More than half of the work was carried out in temperate and boreal forests, and in temperate grasslands. On the other hand, there are few jobs in the Baltic and Balkan countries, in desert and semi-arid scrublands, in subtropical forests and in high mountains.

Carpobrotus edulis on the Cantabrian coast. GeoVehrka/Wikimedia

“The database provides information on whether invasive species increase, decrease or have a neutral effect on the ecological variable under study,” says Montserrat Vilà, researcher at the EBD-CSIC and coordinator of the study. Along these lines, she highlights that “‘Plantimpactseurope’ will guide research into the circumstances in which invasive plants can cause pronounced impacts“.

Significant impacts

The database will be updated as new field studies are published on the ecological impacts of invasive species. “We hope that there will be more studies on species that are still locally rare and with a restricted distribution,” says Vilà.

“The impacts of invasive species can vary widely between invaded sites and depend on the ecological variable under study,” the report states. “For each study, we recorded whether the effects were statistically significant and noted their direction (i.e., decrease or increase in the response variable compared to non-invaded sites),” the authors write.

Most studies focused on native species, followed by studies on communities. Impacts on plants were studied more frequently than impacts on other taxa and trophic groups. 43% of studies reported significant impactswith more significant decreases (26%) than increases (17%) in the response variables.

Significant impacts were more frequent in species and communities than in ecosystems; and in plants than in animals or microbes.

To improve knowledge of the impacts of invasive plant species, the authors advocate for more studies on species that are still locally rare and with restricted distributionand on how they modify plant-soil-microbe interactions.

Solidago Gigantea. Pethan/Wikimedia

In addition to the EBD-CSIC and the IPE-CSIC, research staff from the University of Seville, the University of Alcalá and the University of Friborg (Switzerland) have participated in its execution. The authors are: Montserrat Vilà, Alejandro Trillo, Pilar Castro-Díez, Belinda Gallardo and Sven Bacher.

The database is of interest for academic, management and environmental policy-related purposes., as highlighted by the CSIC. It has been financed, mainly, by the European Regional Development Foundation (SUMHAL, LIFEWATCH, POPE).

Database of invasive plants in Europe:

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