The new flora of northeastern USA: quantifying introduced plant species occupancy in forest ecosystems
Introduced plant species have significant negative impacts in many ecosystems and are found in many forests around the world. Some factors linked to the distribution of introduced species include fragmentation and disturbance, native species richness, and climatic and physical conditions of the landscape. However, there are few data sources that enable the assessment of introduced species occupancy in native plant communities over broad regions. Vegetation data from 1,302 forest inventory plots across 24 states in northeastern and mid-western USA were used to examine and compare the distribution of introduced species in relation to forest fragmentation across ecological provinces and forest types, and to examine correlations between native and introduced species richness. There were 305 introduced species recorded, and 66 % of all forested plots had at least one introduced species. Forest edge plots had higher constancy and occupancy of introduced species than intact forest plots, but the differences varied significantly among ecological provinces and, to a lesser degree, forest types. Weak but significant positive correlations between native and introduced species richness were observed most often in intact forests. Rosa multiflora was the most common introduced species recorded across the region, but Hieracium aurantiacum and Epipactus helleborine were dominant in some ecological provinces. Identifying regions and forest types with high and low constancies and occupation by introduced species can help target forest stands where management actions will be the most effective. Identifying seemingly benign introduced species that are more prevalent than realized will help focus attention on newly emerging invasives.