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Invasive Terrestial Flora & Fauna of Macaronesia. TOP 100 in Azores, Madeira y Canarias.

Authors:
  • Dirección General de Protección de la Naturaleza. Gobierno de Canarias

Abstract

Recent studies have shown that Macaronesia has considerable problems with exotic species, particularly those considered as invasive. For instance, in the Azores more than 60% of the vascular plant flora consists of non-indigenous species (Silva & Smith 2004, 2006). Several plants are presently considered to be serious threats not only to the conservation of the Azorean endemic flora and native plant communities, but also to the conservation of bird species, namely the Azores bullfinch (Pyrrhula murina) and of arthropods (Borges et al. 2006). In Madeira Archipelago, species like the black rat (Rattus rattus) and the domestic cat (Felis silvestris catus) are known to have a strong negative impact on populations of native birds. In the Canaries, about 11% of the terrestrial biota corresponds to alien species, and some recent introductions originated some social alarm, namely the recent naturalization of a species of snake (Lampropeltis getula) in Gran Canaria. However, of the considerable number of introduced species, how many are considered as really invasive (i.e. they are not only naturalized but are presently causing a negative impact on the Macaronesian biota)? Among those species, which are amenable to control or eradication? Which species should be considered priorities for control actions and other measures because they are causing impact but are still possible to control or eradicate? For instance, in Canaries the Barbary ground squirrel (Atlantoxerus getulus) is considered an emblematic invasive alien species (IAS), but is it the top-ranking invader in Macaronesia? French Hydrangea (Hydrangea macrophylla) is a touristic icon in the Azores, but is now also considered as an invasive alien species. What is the real impact of the different species of alien rodents in Macaronesia? Although negative impacts have been a concern, should positive impacts also be considered? For example, several alien species still have and will most probably continue to have an important role in the islands’ economy or as game species. This book aims to answer some of these questions. It is a first attempt to present information regarding alien species in the European region of Macaronesia in a systematic way. Undoubtedly, this is a difficult task, due to differences regarding legislation but also to the differences in the general treatment given to IAS in the different archipelagos. A standard set of criteria was designed and applied to those species considered as naturalized and occupying natural and semi-natural habitats. A first set of criteria was used to score the effect on biodiversity values, in terms of species and habitats, which are being affected by the invasive species. A second set of criteria was used to score the feasibility of control or eradication of the invasive species. In this second set of criteria we also included items reflecting the social importance of the species concerned. The application of both sets of criteria has allowed identification of the most noxious IAS in Macaronesia and also the ranking of those species according to a management priority. This is of considerable importance, since, due to the large scale of the IAS problem not only in Macaronesia but globally, it is not possible to control every introduced species. Resources will have to be allocated to those species that are still possible to control or eradicate with sustainable costs. Although the criteria were applied by experts from each archipelago, a global Macaronesian approach was possible after a thorough analysis and careful treatment of the data from each archipelago, this being the main objective of the book. This book is also intended to serve as a tool to raise awareness of the problem of IAS. In fact, island ecosystems have been considered as more susceptible to IAS than continental systems, largely due to the small scale of the islands and to peculiarities of island biota which make them more susceptible to foreign competitors, predators and pathogens. However, islands, particularly European islands, are important hotspots for biodiversity, and the preservation of this natural heritage is currently also dependent on the implementation of effective measures to contain IAS
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... However, changes in land use have led to a drastic reduction in natural forest cover and the expansion of exotic woodland and production forest [45,46]. Besides land cover change, invasive species, including a large number of plant taxa that are recognized as problematic invaders worldwide, constitute a major threat to the preservation of the remaining natural plant communities in the Azores [47,48]. ...
... Colocasia esculenta (3rd in our study) is an abundant species in all the Azores archipelago that is easy to obtain and maintain in cultivation. Despite being a potentially invasive species in many places, in the Azores and Madeira Island [48], particularly along water streams and in steep, wet coastal areas, it has been widely used for commercial and agricultural purposes in the Azores, being planted but also frequently escaping from cultivation, forming from small groups of plants to dense stands, resulting from vegetative propagation of the rhizomes. Previous research showed removal of nitrate, phosphate and organic matter, and tolerance to very high COD concentrations. ...
... Arundo donax was introduced intentionally in the Azores to hedgerows, to control soil erosion, handcraft, ornamental, and agriculture, but when established, it caused drastic ecological changes and affected several endemic and native species, including vascular plants and seabirds [48,106]. It has invaded large areas in all the archipelago, particularly along water streams and in coastal areas, including very steep sea cliffs. ...
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Constructed wetlands are considered integrated ecosystems and a promising wastewater treatment option, relying on vegetation, soils, and microbial assemblages. The potential dispersal of effluents from domestic septic systems, the application of dairy farm effluents containing excessive nutrients and pathogens into pastures, and undertreated effluent discharge in coastal areas are some of the threats to water quality in the Azores. Constructed wetlands could be used in the Azores to protect and preserve the quality of drinking water sources and bathing waters. However, the most used plant species in other regions are considered as introduced in the Azores, where a considerable number of invasive plants and weeds are already present. Here, we present a review of the plant taxa already present in the Azorean flora with the potential to be used in constructed wetland systems, based on a literature review, and on the assessment of nine criteria. We evaluated 73 taxa, including mostly Cyperaceae, Poaceae and Juncaceae, showing that, although some of the top-ranking species were considered potentially noxious, several native and some naturalized taxa could be used for wastewater treatment. This work supports the implementation of constructed wetlands in the Azores, while minimizing the risk of new invasions.
... Nicotiana glauca it is a sempervirens shrub (Sanz-Elorza et al., 2005;Silva et al., 2008) with a natural distribution throughout South America. However, it was introduced in North America, Europe, Africa, Asia and Oceania and arrived to the Canary Islands as an ornamental plant. ...
... It is common on borders of roads and highways, as well as in the bed of ravines. It also grows near crops and in house gardens (Silva et al., 2008). In the Canary Islands it was introduced as ornamental in the 1930s. ...
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Nicotiana glauca it is naturally distributed throughout South America. It was introduced in North America, Europe, Africa, Asia and Oceania and arrived to the Canary Islands as an ornamental plant, where has been invading altered soils. Endophytic fungi are known to produce active compounds that provide protection to their host against diseases and attack of herbivores, these microorganisms being an interesting source of novel molecules. So far, the endophytic fungal communities of Nicotiana have not been studied in the Canary Islands. The goal of this study is to evaluate the diversity of the fungal endophytes community associated with Nicotiana glauca. A total of 36 fungal species were isolated from roots, stems and leaves of plants collected in three locations from Tenerife Island - San Miguel de Abona, Fasnia and Puerto de la Cruz. The highest species richness values were found in leaves and stems (Margalef index = 3.33 and 3.36, respectively) versus roots (Margalef index = 2.52). Simpson's index complements the results of the Margalef index, indicating a fungal community with a high dominance value in roots (D = 0.65) due to the presence of multiple Fusarium species. Fungal community in Fasnia had the highest value of species richness (Margalef index = 3.69 versus 2.17 and 2.27 for San Miguel de Abona and Puerto de la Cruz, respectively). Results indicate fungal specificity to organ and location with 13 genera isolated from a single location and organ, among which rare species like Collariella and Gelasinospora. In this study was detected and isolated for the first time in Canary Islands the fungal species Collariella hilkhuijsenii which is of importance for the ecology of this genus scarcely known. Special attention should be offered to the presence of Fusarium, which possibly relates to the alkaloid production ability of both, the plant and the fungal strains.
... Disturbances are limited to minor harvesting of non-timber forest products 65 . However, an intensive management regime in the case of PF and the spread of invasive species in EW, originated a decrease in plant diversity levels [80][81][82][83][84] . While plantations are known for high timber productivity, their potential to harbor plant diversity is low 72 . ...
... The small height in NF could be associated with environmental conditions in montane belts where trees with contorted trunks and branches, dense compact crowns, small and hard leaves are found 61 . Moreover, the submontane forest dominated by Laurus azorica has been mostly replaced by pastureland or exotic woodland 61,72,94 , the existing stands being limited in distribution range and in age, with many relatively young trees 102 , often being invaded by P. undulatum or A. melanoxylon 81,88 . One such examples is the Laurus dominated forest that we sampled at Povoação (São Miguel Island). ...
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Assessment of forest ecosystems and their services is seen as a key action for the advancement of biodiversity objectives, and to inform the development and implementation of related policies and planning. The Azorean forest is important for timber production, the protection of soil and water resources, and for its recreational and aesthetic value. However, its role in carbon accumulation has not been fully addressed. We assessed plant diversity, forest structure and carbon stocks in a gradient of three forest types (Natural Forest-NF; Exotic Woodland-EW and Production Forest-PF) in three of the Azores islands. We used biodiversity indices and found that NF harbored the highest plant diversity levels and PF the lowest. Diversity levels were lower for structural than for taxonomic data, particularly for PF. The highest tree carbon stock was found at EW in one of the islands, while PF consistently exhibited relatively high tree carbon stocks in the three islands. The largest soil carbon stocks were found at EW, while leaf litter carbon stocks were higher at PF. We concluded that NF play a fundamental role as plant diversity hotspots but have lower relevance as carbon stocks what might be associated with montane environmental conditions. PFs provide economic assets and act as carbon sinks, while EWs play a major role as carbon sinks in soil, but also at tree level in the oldest forests.
... The introduction of alien species is one of the main threats to biodiversity in Macaronesia and worldwide. More than 70% of vascular plants and more than 50% of arthropod species in the Azores are aliens (Silva et al., 2008). Especially successful invaders in Macaronesia include the plants Cenchrus spp., Hedychium gardnerianum, Pittosporum undulatum and Ulex europaeus, as well as vertebrates like cats (Felis sylvestris), goats (Capra hircus), Corsican mouflons (Ovis aries musimon), Barbary sheep (Ammotragus lervia), rats (Rattus rattus and R. norvegicus), house mice (Mus musculus domesticus), rabbits (Oryctolagus cuniculus), and Californian kingsnakes (Lampropeltis californiae). ...
... Macaronesia also served as the basis for developing successful innovative approaches for alien species management on islands, including prevention, early detection, eradication and control of invaders, as well as proper legislation. For instance, a list of the priority TOP 100 invasive alien species in Macaronesia has been compiled (Silva et al., 2008), based on their known impacts upon native and endemic biodiversity and the feasibility of successful control. Furthermore, the Canary Islands, Madeira and Selvagens have provided examples of successful eradication and control schemes for rabbits, cats, mice, and plants (e.g., Bell, 2001;Olivera et al., 2010). ...
Article
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Research in Macaronesia has led to substantial advances in ecology, evolution and conservation biology. We review the scientific developments achieved in this region, and outline promising research avenues enhancing conservation. Some of these discoveries indicate that the Macaronesian flora and fauna is composed of rather young lineages, not Tertiary relicts, predominantly of European origin. Macaronesia also seems to be an important source region for back-colonization of continental fringe regions on both sides of the Atlantic. This group of archipelagos (Azores, Madeira, Selvagens, Canary Islands, and Cabo Verde) has been crucial to learn about the particularities of macroecological patterns and interaction networks on islands, providing evidence for the development of the General Dynamic Model of oceanic island biogeography and subsequent updates. However, in addition to exceptionally high richness of endemic species, Macaronesia is also home to a growing number of threatened species, along with invasive alien plants and animals. Several innovative conservation and management actions are in place to protect its biodiversity from these and other drivers of global change. The Macaronesian Islands are a well-suited field of study for island ecology and evolution research, mostly due to its special geological layout with 40 islands grouped within five archipelagos differing in geological age, climate and isolation. A large amount of data is now available for several groups of organisms on and around many of these islands. However, continued efforts should be made towards compiling new information on their biodiversity, to pursue various fruitful research avenues and develop appropriate conservation management tools.
... In particular, it has been reported that invasive species negatively affect 73% of the top 100 endangered and priority species for conservation in the archipelago (Silva, L et al. 2008). ...
Technical Report
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... Concerning NF, which isn't under any form of intensive management and has less anthropogenic influence, since it is not easily accessible [64], the disturbances are limited to minor harvesting of non-timber forest products [55]. However, the effect of an intensive management regime in the case of PF and of the spread and dominance of invasive species in EW, have originated a significant decrease in biodiversity levels [64][65][66][67][68]. ...
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Assessment of forest ecosystems and their services is seen as a key action for the advancement of biodiversity objectives, and to inform the development and implementation of related policies and planning. We assessed biodiversity, structure and carbon stocks in a gradient of three forest types (Natural Forest-NF; Exotic Woodland-EW and Production Forest-PF) in three of the Azores islands. We used biodiversity indices and found that NF harbored the highest plant biodiversity levels and PF the lowest. Diversity levels were lower for structural than for taxonomic data, particularly for PF. The highest tree carbon stock was found at EW in one of the islands, while PF consistently exhibited relatively high tree carbon stocks in the three islands. The largest soil carbon stocks were found at EW, while leaf litter carbon stocks were higher at PF. We concluded that NF play a fundamental role as biodiversity hotspots but have lower relevance as carbon stocks. PFs provide economic assets and act as carbon sinks, while EWs play a major role as carbon sinks in soil, but also at tree level in the oldest forests. A full quantification of forest value would also include ecosystem services such as water protection, recreation and aesthetic value.
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