Impact of invasive slash pine (Pinus elliottii) on groundcover vegetation at home and abroad

J. Stephen Brewer, Flaviana Maluf Souza, Ragan M. Callaway, Giselda Durigan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

21 Scopus citations


Invasive trees can cause catastrophic reductions in diversity in invaded grasslands and savannas. Such reductions often appear to be particularly severe in the new biogeographic ranges of these invaders. We present results of a field study that examined the effect of slash pine (Pinus elliottii), native to the southeastern US, on savanna groundcover vegetation in the state of São Paulo in Brazil (cerrado) and in its native range in Mississippi (USA) following fire exclusion. We compared the difference in several community attributes between slash pine understories and adjacent open area in both São Paulo and Mississippi, and compared the effects of needle litter on native species in both continents. Slash pine was correlated with lower non-graminoid species richness and plant density in both São Paulo and Mississippi; however, these apparent negative effects were 4.6 and 11 times stronger in the non-native range of Brazil (for richness and density, respectively). Native graminoids were not present in invaded cerrado. Overhead slash pine canopy cover, pine density, and needle depth were 5.2, 3.7, and at 14 times higher, respectively, in Brazil than in Mississippi savannas, for similarly-aged pine stands. One year after implementing needle litter treatments in Brazilian cerrado and restored Mississippi savanna, plant density and non-graminoid species richness were highly suppressed, but to similar degrees in both ranges. Our results suggest that higher rates of needle deposition, associated with higher tree densities, contribute to the stronger suppression of native species in Brazil than in Mississippi.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2807-2820
Number of pages14
JournalBiological Invasions
Issue number10
StatePublished - Oct 1 2018


  • Biodiversity
  • Gondwana
  • Grassland
  • Impact
  • Litter
  • Non-native invasion
  • Pines
  • Savanna
  • Species richness


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