Geospatial Assessment of Invasive Plants on Reclaimed Mines in Alabama

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Throughout the world, the invasion of nonnative plants is an increasing threat to native biodiversity and ecosystem sustainability. Invasion is especially prevalent in areas affected by land transformation and disturbance. Surface mines are a major land transformation, and thus may promote the establishment and persistence of invasive plant communities. Using the Shale Hills region of Alabama as a case study, we assessed the use of landscape characteristics in predicting the probability of occurrence of six invasive plant species: sericea lespedeza, Japanese honeysuckle, Chinese privet, autumn-olive, royal paulownia, and sawtooth oak. Models were generated for invasive species occurrence using logistic regression and maximum entropy methods. The predicted probabilities of species occurrence were applied to the mined landscape to assess the probable prevalence of each species across the landscape. Japanese honeysuckle had the highest probable prevalence on the landscape (48% of the area), with royal paulownia having the lowest (less than 1%). Overall, 67% of the landscape was predicted to have at least one invasive plant species, with 20% of the landscape predicted to have two or more species, and 3% of the landscape predicted to have three or more species. Japanese honeysuckle, sericea lespedeza, privet, and autumn-olive showed higher occurrence on the reclaimed sites than across the broader region. We found that geospatial modeling of these invasive plants at this scale offered potential for management, both for identifying habitat types at risk and areas that need management attention. However, the most immediate action for reducing the prevalence of invasive plants on reclaimed mines is to remove invasive plants from the reclamation planting list. Three (sericea lespedeza, autumnolive, and sawtooth oak) out of the six most common invasive plants in this study were planted as part of reclamation activities.

Nomenclature: Autumn-olive, Elaeagnus umbellata Thunb.; Chinese privet, Ligustrum sinense Lour.; Japanese honeysuckle, Lonicera japonica Thunb.; royal paulownia, Paulownia tomentosa (Thunb.) Sieb. & Zucc. ex Steud.; sawtooth oak, Quercus acutissima Carruthers; sericea lespedeza, Lespedeza cuneata (Dumont) G. Don.

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