Biological Invasions in Forests: An IUFRO Task Force
Ecology of biological invasions in forests
Invading species act in a variety of ecological roles in forests including as primary producers, herbivores, predators, animal pathogens, plant pathogens, pollinators, decomposers, and mutualists. While most non-native species have negligible ecological effects, the establishment of certain species can drastically alter endemic ecological processes and thereby substantially alter forest community composition and food web structure, often resulting in a variety of cascading effects.Species invasions have the capacity to alter the stability and productivity of forest ecosystems that provide critical resources for human wellbeing, as well as forest biodiversity globally.
Many invading species act in complex relationships with other native and non-native species. For example, tree pathogens often exist in mutualistic associations with insects, which they depend on for dispersal or access to tree tissue. Invasion by tree pathogens may result not only in novel associations of pathogens with host trees, but also with mutualistic insect species. Invasions by soil microorganisms, including mycorrhizal fungi and nitrogen-fixing bacteria, can profoundly alter interactions among plant species. Evidence suggests that the competitive success of many non-native plant species is dependent on the invasion of non-native mutualists.
Planted forests, mainly of non-native trees, account for ca. 70% of wood produced for industrial use worldwide. Some of the exceptional growth of non- native trees can be attributed to escape from herbivores and pathogens as well as the presence of microbial symbionts that are also translocated from the native range of these trees. Trees in many planted forests are increasingly affected by insect pests and pathogens that are accidentally moved around the world, potentially threatening the world’s supply of wood.
Invasions in Plantation Forests
Above and Below Ground Impacts
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