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Spatial Distributions of Native and Invasive Shrubs in a Sub-Tropical Forest

Martinez, Natalia Theresa; Horvitz, Carol; Erickson, Kelley; Palmer, Matthew I.

Tree invasions can negatively affect ecosystems by altering environmental conditions and displacing native species. Trees provide structure and habitat for forest ecosystems and so exotic tree invasions can have particularly dramatic effects on communities. The negative results of these invasions include alteration of successional dynamics reduced diversity and relative abundance of native species, disruption of important ecosystem functions and high public costs to manage invasive species. Competition, dispersal and environmental heterogeneity can have significant effects on spatial patterns of plants. Plant interactions with their immediate neighbors are most significant, and so the spatial distribution of neighbors can influence the extent of interactions in a system, which will influence the future composition of the system. The Everglades in South Florida has sensitive tree islands whose successful restoration depends on native plant recruitment. There is currently severe invasion in the Everglades by Schinus terebinthifolius. The native shrub Ilex cassine occupies a similar niche and has been identified as an important recruit for tree island restoration and has also been found to establish populations within Schinus thickets. This study examines how the two are spatially distributed in sites where they coexist. Few Ilex individuals were found at the study site and there is no significant spatial autocorrelation in either species. Further analysis will lead to a discussion of what this indicates about the present and future state of Schinus invasion. It is important to halt the spread of this invasive due to its level of disruption in the already disturbed Everglades.

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More About This Work

Academic Units
Ecology, Evolution, and Environmental Biology
Degree
B.A., Columbia University
Published Here
May 7, 2013
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