Historical land-use legacy and Cortaderia selloana invasion in the Mediterranean region

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Two major components of global change: land-use changes and intentional or accidental species introduction are threatening the conservation of native species worldwide. In particular, Mediterranean coastal areas are highly susceptible to the invasion of alien species and they also have experienced major changes in land use such as agricultural abandonment and urbanization. However, there has been little research done which quantitatively links biological invasions and the components of land-use changes (i.e. number, trajectory and direction of the changes). We analysed the current distribution and abundance of Cortaderia selloana (Schultes et Schultes fil.) Asch, et Graebner, an alien ornamental species, in 332 fields in Aiguamolls de l'Empordà (Catalonia, NE Spain) and related the patterns of invasion to spatiotemporal data on land-use changes from 1956 to 2003. Our aim was to determine which land uses had been more susceptible to C. selloana invasion during the last 5 years and to find out which components of land-use changes triggered invasion. We found that 22.30% of the fields are currently invaded. In the last 5 years, fields have triplicated the total density of C. selloana. The presence of C. selloana decreases with the distance from urban areas. Invasion is over-represented in pastures and old-fields, and it has increased with time since abandonment. The presence of C. selloana was also associated to fields that had experienced many changes in land use in the last 46 years. The most heavily invaded fields were those that were pastures in 1956 and are now old fields in 2003. On average, the largest plants are found in agricultural field margins and in fields that had a disturbed land use both in 1956 and in 2003. Furthermore, pastures had the lowest proportion of reproductive plants. Overall, current C. selloana patterns of invasion can be explained by the historical legacy of land-use changes. © 2005 Blackwell Publishing Ltd.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1054-1064
JournalGlobal Change Biology
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jul 2005


  • Agricultural fields
  • Alien plant
  • GIS
  • Global change
  • Land-use changes
  • Land-use history
  • Mediterranean Basin
  • Old-fields
  • Pampas grass
  • Pastures


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