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Forest Ecology and Management

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Ecological invasions are a major driver of global environmental change. When invasions are frequent and prolonged, exotic species can become dominant and ultimately create novel ecosystem types. These ecosystems are now widespread globally. Recent evidence from Puerto Rico suggests that exotic-dominated forests can provide suitable regeneration sites for native species and promote native species abundance, but this pattern has been little explored elsewhere. We surveyed 46 sites in Hawai’i to determine whether native species occurred in the understories of exotic-dominated forests. Native trees smaller than 10 cm in diameter were absent in 28 of the 46 sites and rare in the others. Natives were never the dominant understory species; in fact, they accounted for less than 10% of understory basal area at all but six sites, and less than 4% on average. Sites with native species in the understory tended to be on young lava substrate lacking human disturbance, and were mostly located close to intact, native-dominated forest stands. Even where we found some native species, however, most were survivors of past exotic encroachment into native forest, rather than products of active recolonization by native species. In contrast with successional trajectories in Puerto Rico, Hawaii's exotic-dominated forests can emerge, via invasion, without human disturbance and native Hawaiian plants are largely unable to colonize them once they appear. We suggest that a wide diversity of growth strategies among the exotic species on Hawai’i may limit the opportunities for native plants to colonize exotic-dominated forests.


Accepted version. Forest Ecology and Management, Vol. 256, No. 4 (August 10, 2008): 593-606. DOI. © 2008 Elsevier. Used with permission.

Stefan A. Schnitzer was affiliated with University of Wisconsin - Milwaukee at the time of publication.

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