Plant Invasions on an Oceanic Archipelago

Research paper by Josef Greimler, Tod F. Stuessy, Ulf Swenson, Carlos M. Baeza, Oscar Matthei

Indexed on: 01 Mar '02Published on: 01 Mar '02Published in: Biological Invasions


Plant invasions are particularly noticeable on oceanic islands. For many ecological or evolutionary phenomena, oceanic islands offer advantages in comparison to continental regions, because they are often simpler systems. The Juan Fernández (Robinson Crusoe) Islands, located 667 km west of continental Chile, provide an especially favorable case study of plant invasions on an oceanic archipelago. They have little flora, no influence from aboriginal peoples, and good historical and recent documentation of flora, vegetation and human impacts. The total flora of the archipelago consists of 441 vascular plants, of which 209 are native (125 of them endemic) and 232 are aliens. Many alien species exist on the Juan Fernández Archipelago, but three shrubs are particularly invasive: Aristotelia chilensis, Rubus ulmifolius, and Ugni molinae. About 15% of the total area of the island has been impacted by at least one of these shrubs. In addition, the herbaceous Acaena argentea, now occurs at high abundance in 12% of the total area of the island. Comparisons of earlier and recent surveys of vegetation reveal that the area impacted by Aristotelia,Rubus, and Ugni molinae has increased tremendously. Among the most frequent aliens are Euro-Mediterranean taxa, also present on other archipelagos. A few aliens that are serious invasives on other archipelagos have been recently observed near San Juan Bautisata, the only village on the island. Effective measures involving stronger monitoring and sanitation of incoming materials (foodstuffs, building materials, etc.), cutting or poisoning of invasives, and reseeding with native species, are necessary to help preserve the native and endemic flora (and biota) of these islands.

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