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Stream Structural Limitations on Invasive Communities in Urban Riparian Areas

  • Robert J. Warren (a1), Daniel L. Potts (a1) and Kelly M. Frothingham (a2)


Urban riparian plant communities exist at the interface between terrestrial and aquatic habitats, and they are rich sources of species biodiversity and ecosystem services. The periodic floods that promote species diversity in riparian plant communities also increase their vulnerability to nonnative plant invasions. Plant invasions are constrained by seed and suitable habitat availability. However, how seed dispersal and establishment limitations interact to shape nonnative plant invasions in riparian communities is poorly understood. We use Stream Visual Assessment Protocol data to evaluate the hydrological and geomorphological parameters that influence the seeding and establishment of six common nonnative species in urban riparian habitats: garlic mustard, purple loosestrife, reed canarygrass, common reed, Japanese knotweed, and multiflora rose. To address this objective, we analyzed stream reach data collected during a basin-wide environmental assessment of the extensively urbanized upper Niagara River watershed. We found limited support for our prediction that propagule limitation constrains the distribution of nonnative riparian species, likely because these species are well established in the study area. Instead, we found that opportune stream reach characteristics better predict the distribution of the common invasive riparian species—most notably open tree canopy. Given that there is widespread investment in urban riparian forest restoration to improve water quality, increase stream-bank stability, enhance wildlife habitat and promote recreation, our data suggest that riparian forests may provide the additional benefit of reducing the abundance of some, but not all, invasive plants.

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Stream Structural Limitations on Invasive Communities in Urban Riparian Areas

  • Robert J. Warren (a1), Daniel L. Potts (a1) and Kelly M. Frothingham (a2)


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