Land-use change and propagule pressure promote plant invasions in tropical rainforest remnants


Waddell EH, Banin LF, Fleiss S, Hill JK, Hughes M, Jelling A, Yeong KL, Ola BB, Sailim AB, Tangah J & Chapman DS (2020) Land-use change and propagule pressure promote plant invasions in tropical rainforest remnants. Landscape Ecology, 35 (9), p. 1891–1906.

Context Intact tropical rainforests are considered robust to plant invasions. However, land-use change alters the structure and species composition of native forest, opening up tropical landscapes to invasion. Yet, the relative roles of key drivers on tropical forest invasions remain little investigated. Objectives We examine factors affecting plant invasion of rainforest remnants in oil-palm dominated landscapes in Sabah, Malaysian Borneo. We hypothesized that invasion is greater in highly fragmented landscapes, and in disturbed forests with lower native plant diversity (cf. old-growth rainforests). Methods Native and exotic plants were surveyed in 47 plots at 17 forest sites, spanning gradients in landscape-scale fragmentation and local forest disturbance. Using partial least squares path-modelling, we examined correlations between invasion, fragmentation, forest disturbance, propagule pressure, soil characteristics and native plant community. Results We recorded 6999 individuals from 329 genera in total, including eight exotic species (0–51% of individuals/plot, median = 1.4%) representing shrubs, forbs, graminoids and climbers. The best model (R2 = 0.343) revealed that invasion was correlated with disturbance and propagule pressure (high prevalence of exotic species in plantation matrix), the latter being driven by greater fragmentation of the landscape. Our models revealed a significant negative correlation between invasion and native tree seedlings and sapling community diversity. Conclusions Increasing landscape fragmentation promotes exotic plant invasion in remnant tropical forests, especially if local disturbance is high. The association between exotic species invasion and young native tree community may have impacts for regeneration given that fragmentation is predicted to increase and so plant invasion may become more prevalent.

Agricultural landscapes; Forest degradation; Fragmentation; Non-native species; Oil palm; Structural equation modelling

Landscape Ecology: Volume 35, Issue 9

FundersNatural Environment Research Council
Publication date30/09/2020
Publication date online31/07/2020
Date accepted by journal29/06/2020