Description

This study examines how the vertical structure of forests and the variation in forest canopy tree composition relates to where forest plant invasions occur at a regional scale. We used LiDAR data on vertical structure of forests collected across 16 counties of western North Carolina, and Forest Inventory and Analysis (FIA) abundance data of invasive plant species and canopy tree species from 575 plots. We found that nearly one third of these plots were invaded by at least one invasive plant species (range = 1 to 8 species). We derived canopy gaps/clear-cut areas of the study site using LiDAR data matrix (RH100) and 2006 NLCD image to compare invasive species richness at the vegetation gap and closed canopy areas. The most frequently occurring invasive species of the 22 recorded invasive species in the vegetation gap and closed canopy areas were Lonicera japonica (Japanese honeysuckle; 67% & 49%), Rosa spp. (non-native rose; 58% & 51%) and Ligustrum sinense (Chinese privet; 36% & 25%) respectively. Majority of invasive species in both vegetation gap and closed canopy areas are dispersed by birds/ small mammals. Preliminary results suggest that plots in areas having greater forest structural complexity have less invasive plant species present. A variety of mechanisms can explain how forest structural complexity may impact invasivability. We conclude by summarizing these possible mechanisms and the role that LiDAR can play in studying and managing forested landscapes threatened by invasive species.

Start Date

11-2014

Document Type

Presentation

Keywords

invasive plants, LiDAR matrix, vertical structure, Appalachian mountains

Session List

poster

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Nov 1st, 12:00 AM

How Structural Complexity of Vegetation Facilitates Invasion: Integrating LiDAR and FIA Invasive Species Plot Data in the Appalachian Mountains of the USA

This study examines how the vertical structure of forests and the variation in forest canopy tree composition relates to where forest plant invasions occur at a regional scale. We used LiDAR data on vertical structure of forests collected across 16 counties of western North Carolina, and Forest Inventory and Analysis (FIA) abundance data of invasive plant species and canopy tree species from 575 plots. We found that nearly one third of these plots were invaded by at least one invasive plant species (range = 1 to 8 species). We derived canopy gaps/clear-cut areas of the study site using LiDAR data matrix (RH100) and 2006 NLCD image to compare invasive species richness at the vegetation gap and closed canopy areas. The most frequently occurring invasive species of the 22 recorded invasive species in the vegetation gap and closed canopy areas were Lonicera japonica (Japanese honeysuckle; 67% & 49%), Rosa spp. (non-native rose; 58% & 51%) and Ligustrum sinense (Chinese privet; 36% & 25%) respectively. Majority of invasive species in both vegetation gap and closed canopy areas are dispersed by birds/ small mammals. Preliminary results suggest that plots in areas having greater forest structural complexity have less invasive plant species present. A variety of mechanisms can explain how forest structural complexity may impact invasivability. We conclude by summarizing these possible mechanisms and the role that LiDAR can play in studying and managing forested landscapes threatened by invasive species.