Liedtke et al.
Created on November 11, 2019
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Are mountain trails conduits for plant invasions
(click the points to find out!)
The extreme, rocky, volcanic areas at high elevation are mostly invader-free. The few non-natives making it to the top are a subset of the non-native species community in the valleys.
Figure: non-native richness as a function of elevation (scaled) in the Chilean national parks
Native, undisturbed forests - in this region often consisting of Araucaria's or 'monkey puzzle trees' - turns out to be most resistant against non-native plant invasion, offering potential for conservation.
Livestock and pack animals, like these horses in Mendoza, Argentina, were shown to spread non-native plant species. How did we show this? By correlating non-native plant species occurrences with animal dung!
The impact of mountain trails on the spread of non-native species was less strong than of mountain roads, as roadsides contrast more clearly with the surrounding vegetation than trailsides
Figure: non-native richness as a function of distance to the trail, showing a small effect only
The lowland plant communities host a wide diversity of non-native plant species, often from European origin.
We showed that hiking trails in Andean national parks promote the upward expansion of non-native plant species.
To answer this question, we went to the Andes in central Chile, where we visited 5 national parks in an ancient volcanic area. In this beautiful setting, we looked at patterns of plant invasions along mountain trails.