Parent tree distance-dependent recruitment limitation of native and exotic invasive seedlings in urban forests

L.B. Martínez-García*, O. Pietrangelo, P.M. Antunes

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

7 Citations (Scopus)


Urban forests are more vulnerable to exotic species invasions than natural forests and are often a pathway for exotic invasions into natural areas. Investigating the mechanisms responsible for species coexistence in urban ecosystems is important to prevent forest invasions and conserve native biodiversity. In this experiment, we studied seedling recruitment for two exotic invasive (Acer saccharum and Rhamnus cathartica) and two native tree species (Acer platanoides and Betula papyrifera) in two urban forests. We measured the effects of distance from a mature tree on the growth of conspecific seedlings and their belowground interactions (mutualisms and pathogens). We expected that native seedlings growing in close proximity to a mature conspecific tree would more likely be damaged by co-specific pathogens than those growing further away. In contrast, considering that exotic invaders have not coevolved with the local soil pathogens, distance from the adult conspecific tree would not affect their seedlings. We collected undisturbed soil cores at five incremental distances from each adult tree and grew conspecific seeds in these cores. After three months of growth, we measured plant biomass, mycorrhizal root colonization and root lesions. We found that biomass increased with distance from the mature conspecific tree only for A. platanoides and no distance dependent signal was detected for other response variables. Our results show that distance from a conspecific mature tree may not determine exotic species invasibility in an urban forest and that, instead, this may contribute to promote native and invasive species coexistence in urban forest systems.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)969-981
JournalUrban Ecosystems
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2016


  • Invaded ecosystems
  • Janzen Connell hypothesis
  • Mycorrhizal fungi
  • Recruitment limitation
  • Species coexistence
  • Urban forests


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