Colonization and Effects of Garlic Mustard (Alliaria petiolata), European Buckthorn (Rhamnus cathartica), and Bell's Honeysuckle (Lonicera X bella) on Understory Plants After Five Decades in Southern Wisconsin Forests

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Preinvasion baseline data on entire communities are absent for most taxa in most places, and this limits our ability to connect long-term ecological changes to particular invasive species or invasion events. We obtained data on forest understory composition from 94 stands in the 1950s and again the 2000s. We recorded within-stand frequency of occurrence for garlic mustard, European buckthorn, and Bell’s honeysuckle and identified changes in native plant species density in 20, 1-m2 quadrats in invaded and noninvaded stands. All three invasive species were absent from all study sites 50 yr ago, yet at least one was present in 77.7% of the stands by the 2000s. All three species were present in 14.9% of the stands. Garlic mustard and European buckthorn were found at 47.9% of resurveyed sites, and Bell’s honeysuckle was found in 40.4% of resurveyed sites. Native understory plant species density declined an average of 23.1% during the past 50 yr. Declines were not significantly different in stands with or without invasive plants. The absence of a measurable effect by invasive plant presence or frequency could be due to invasive plants being too few to have a measurable effect at the plot scale, species density being an insensitive response variable, time lags between invasions and effects, or regional factors like development pressure and fire suppression driving density declines in both invasives and native species.

Nomenclature: Bell’s honeysuckle; Lonicera X bella Zabel (morrowii X tatarica); European buckthorn; Rhamnus cathartica L.; garlic mustard; Alliaria petiolata (Beib.) Cavara & Grande.



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