J Plant Ecol ›› 2015, Vol. 8 ›› Issue (5): 491-500.

• Research Articles •

### The role of light, soil and human factors on the probability of occurrence of an invasive and three native plant species in coastal transitions of coastal Mississippi, USA

Shishir Paudel1,2,* and Loretta L. Battaglia1

1. 1 Department of Plant Biology and Center for Ecology, Southern Illinois University Carbondale, Mail code 6509, Carbondale, IL 62901, USA; 2 The Department of Natural Resource Ecology & Management, Oklahoma State University, Stillwater, OK 74078, USA
• Received:2014-07-27 Accepted:2014-12-27 Published:2015-09-16
• Contact: Paudel, Shishir

Abstract: Aims Understanding relationships between the distributions of species and their surrounding environment provides a basis for forecasting how species will respond to future environmental changes. In this study, we examined the effects of environmental factors and human developmental features associated with disturbances on probability of occurrence of juveniles of invasive Triadica sebifera and three native plant species, Baccharis halimifolia, Ilex vomitoria and Morella cerifera within a typical coastal transition in coastal Mississippi, USA.
Methods We recorded presence of juveniles of focal species and measured environmental factors (soil salinity, canopy openness, soil texture and soil carbon to nitrogen ratio) along an 11.3 km transect located at Grand Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve. Further, we documented anthropogenic features and associated activities as a proxy for human disturbance.
Important findings With the exception of I. vomitoria, all other species occurrences were significantly influenced by an interaction between soil salinity and canopy openness. The occurrence of I. vomitoria sharply decreased with salinity. B. halimifolia occurrence peaked at moderate levels of salinity and low to moderate levels of canopy openness. Occurrences of M. cerifera and the invasive T. sebifera were highest at low levels of salinity and canopy openness. These results indicate that salinity is a strong driver that limits distribution of juvenile native and invasive species in coastal transitions. Logistic regression confirmed the positive effects of anthropogenic disturbances on T. sebifera and I. vomitoria occurrence. It appears that while soil salinity is likely to drive retreat of the seaward boundaries of woody plant species distributions, increased human developments along the coast likely enhance the inland spread of species, in particular the invasive T. sebifera by increasing disturbances and facilitating dispersal. Results from this study can offer insight for the development of T. sebifera management and preventive measures for further spread along coastal areas of the southeastern USA.

Aims Understanding relationships between the distributions of species and their surrounding environment provides a basis for forecasting how species will respond to future environmental changes. In this study, we examined the effects of environmental factors and human developmental features associated with disturbances on probability of occurrence of juveniles of invasive Triadica sebifera and three native plant species, Baccharis halimifolia, Ilex vomitoria and Morella cerifera within a typical coastal transition in coastal Mississippi, USA.
Methods We recorded presence of juveniles of focal species and measured environmental factors (soil salinity, canopy openness, soil texture and soil carbon to nitrogen ratio) along an 11.3 km transect located at Grand Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve. Further, we documented anthropogenic features and associated activities as a proxy for human disturbance.
Important findings With the exception of I. vomitoria, all other species occurrences were significantly influenced by an interaction between soil salinity and canopy openness. The occurrence of I. vomitoria sharply decreased with salinity. B. halimifolia occurrence peaked at moderate levels of salinity and low to moderate levels of canopy openness. Occurrences of M. cerifera and the invasive T. sebifera were highest at low levels of salinity and canopy openness. These results indicate that salinity is a strong driver that limits distribution of juvenile native and invasive species in coastal transitions. Logistic regression confirmed the positive effects of anthropogenic disturbances on T. sebifera and I. vomitoria occurrence. It appears that while soil salinity is likely to drive retreat of the seaward boundaries of woody plant species distributions, increased human developments along the coast likely enhance the inland spread of species, in particular the invasive T. sebifera by increasing disturbances and facilitating dispersal. Results from this study can offer insight for the development of T. sebifera management and preventive measures for further spread along coastal areas of the southeastern USA.