January 29, 2009

EU map of alien plant invasions is created

A team of Czech, Spanish and British scientists has produced the first map to outline the level of alien plant invasions across the European Union.

The researchers said biological invasions are one of the major threats to biodiversity and also affect the economy and human health. For their effective management it is important to understand which areas and ecosystems are at the highest risk of being invaded, the researchers said.

Plant ecologists investigated species composition of vegetation in more than 50,000 sites in northwestern, southern and central Europe. In each of the sites they quantified the proportion of alien to native plant species.

We found that the highest risk of alien plant invasions was in agricultural and urban ecosystems, said senior author Milan Cchytry of Masaryk University in Brno, Czech Republic. Low levels of invasion were in natural and semi-natural grasslands and most woodlands, and the lowest levels in the Mediterranean evergreen vegetation "¦ and peatlands. This pattern was quite consistent among European regions with contrasting climates, biogeography, history and socio-economic background.

The research appears in the journal Diversity and Distributions.