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The Invasion of Forest-Grassland Mosaics by Gorse, Ulex europaeus L., Fabaceae: Multi-Scale Analyses of Landscape, Community Structure and Anthropogenic Effects

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Title: The Invasion of Forest-Grassland Mosaics by Gorse, Ulex europaeus L., Fabaceae: Multi-Scale Analyses of Landscape, Community Structure and Anthropogenic Effects
Author: León Cordero, Rodrigo
Department: School of Environmental Sciences
Program: Environmental Sciences
Advisor: Anand, Madhur
Abstract: Gorse, Ulex europaeus L., Fabaceae, is one of the 100 worst invasive species. Gorse is a heliophilous and highly-adaptive shrub native to Southwestern Europe. The plant has spread to multiple countries, and severe environmental damage has been widely reported. Nonetheless, ecological knowledge of the species is still limited or inexistent from most areas of its invaded range, especially in species-rich ecosystems such as forest-grassland mosaics. The present thesis contributed to cover existing gaps by i) identifying the major forest-grassland mosaics of the world, their ecological dynamics, origin and significance in the context of current conservation challenges. The biogeographic, taxonomic and functional diversities were also analyzed, using the diverse mosaics of the Western Ghats (India) and the Campos Sulinos (southern Brazil) as models. Assemblages of forest, grassland and ecotone components were evaluated through phylogenetic analyses and indexes of taxonomic distinctness. The results indicated that forest-grassland mosaics can have high levels of taxonomic and functional diversity, even when they are physiognomically distinct. Field research focused on two regions of the Campos Sulinos having forest-grassland mosaics. The aim was to ii) analyze the influence of landscape mosaic structure and land use on gorse distribution and iii) examine the proximate effects of gorse canopies on plant community structure and composition. At the landscape level, gorse invasions differentially affected the components of forest-grassland mosaics, which could have long-term consequences and important implications for conservation. Gorse canopies exerted, through competition and facilitation mechanisms, significant changes in community structure and composition. Finally, I also investigated iv) the importance of transportation network configurations and landscape context on gorse propagation. The likelihood of gorse invasions was higher with proximity to urban or agricultural areas than to forests and grasslands. Road network configuration also promoted the spread of heliophilous taxa like gorse; suggesting that human transportation activity constitutes a main dispersal agent. Furthermore, the present thesis proposes that multi-scale approaches are useful for addressing invasion effects and ecosystem change, emphasizing the need of understanding the complexity of interacting factors; prior to establishing new approaches for gorse control. Current insufficient protection for primary grasslands and forest-grassland mosaics should be reconsidered.
Date: 2016-01-07
Rights: Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.5 Canada
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Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.5 Canada Except where otherwise noted, this item's license is described as Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.5 Canada