Alien plant species composition and associations with anthropogenic disturbance in North American forests

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A probability-based sampling scheme was used to survey plant species composition in forests of 16 states in seven geopolitical regions of the United States (California, Colorado, Minnesota, and parts of the Pacific Northwest, Southeast, Mid-Atlantic, and Northeast) in 1994. The proportion of alien species relative to the total species number and to canopy cover in the ground stratum (0–0.6 m height) was evaluated in 279 plots. Visually evident anthropogenic disturbances (e.g., artificial regeneration, logging, prescribed burning, and grazing by livestock), if any, were recorded on each plot. In each of the seven regions we quantified (1) the percentage of the number of species and total cover comprised of alien species, (2) the difference in these percentages for disturbed and undisturbed plots, and (3) the origin or native range for the alien species.The percentage of alien species ranged from approximately 4.5% (Colorado) to approximately 13.2% (California). The percentage of alien species cover ranged from approximately 1.5% in Colorado to 25% in California. In five regions, species introduced from temperate Eurasia comprised the largest proportion of alien species and cover. In the Southeast, species introduced from far eastern and subtropical Asia dominated the alien flora. In the Mid-Atlantic, the majority of alien species was Eurasian and the majority of alien species cover consisted of far eastern and subtropical Asian species.The proportion of plots in which at least one alien species was recorded was significantly higher in disturbed than undisturbed plots in the Southeast and marginally significantly higher (p=0.053) in the Northeast. These results are consistent with other published studies that indicate that anthropogenic disturbance affects the structure and composition of both the ground stratum and upper canopy of forest habitats. In other regions, however, no significant differences were found.

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