Biological Invasions

, Volume 14, Issue 11, pp 2379–2392 | Cite as

Genetic variability modulates the effect of habitat type and environmental conditions on early invasion success of Ailanthus altissima in Mediterranean ecosystems

  • Soraya Constán-Nava
  • Andreu Bonet
Original Paper


At the early stages of an invasion by an exotic species, there are diverse environmental and genetic factors that limit its expansion. Ailanthus altissima is a tree from China and northern Vietnam which has become an invasive species in numerous ecosystems around the word. Our objective was to identify the relative effect of both genetic and environmental factors and how they interact with the emergence and early establishment of this invasive tree under Mediterranean conditions. To achieve this, seed germination and early establishment from different maternal sources were analyzed under contrasted environmental conditions in a series of experiments, using both laboratory and field approaches. Seed germination and early survival were affected by environmental factors such as habitat-type, the percentage of bare soil and climatic conditions (rainfall pulses), although the influence of these factors changed depending on the maternal source. Our study reveals that the genetic component affected not only the performance of A. altissima, it also modulated its response to environmental factors, which seemed to be the main drivers of germination and early establishment for this species. Our results highlight the importance of considering both genetic and environmental factors when studying plant invasion risk and success, and may be helpful in predicting and reducing the spread of this species in Mediterranean ecosystems.


Climatic factors Early establishment Invasive species Germination Habitat type Temperature 



S. Soliveres and two anonymous reviewers provided helpful comments and improvements on an early version of this manuscript. We also thank Language Centre (University of Alicante) and C. Beans for improving the English of this manuscript. We are grateful to the staff of the Font Roja Natural Park (Generalitat Valenciana), Alcoy Council and J.L. Ferrándiz (landowner) for the permits provided and their collaboration. We would also like to thank C. Constán, A. Constán, M.J. Nava, G. Plaza, E. Pastor, N. Vizcaíno and the other collaborators who helped during the laboratory and fieldwork. We thank J. Huesca for the technical support, M.J. Baeza and V.M. Santana for their comments and M.J. Anderson for her statistical suggestions. This research and SCN fellowship were supported by the projects GV06/029 founded by the Generalitat Valenciana, the ESTRES (063/SGTB/2007/7.1) RECUVES projects (077/RN08/04.1) founded by the Spanish Ministry for the Environment and BAHIRA CICYT project (CGL2008-03649/BTE) founded by the Spanish Ministry for the Science and Technology. Font Roja Natura UA Scientific Station (ECFRN UA), which depends on the Office of the Pro-Vice-Chancellorship for Research, Development and Innovation (VIDI) of the University of Alicante, also supported this research.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Instituto Multidisciplinar para el Estudio del Medio Ramón MargalefUniversidad de AlicanteAlicanteSpain
  2. 2.Estación Científica Font Roja Natura UAUniversidad de AlicanteAlicanteSpain
  3. 3.Departamento de EcologíaUniversidad de AlicanteAlicanteSpain
  4. 4.Estación Científica Font Roja Natura UAUniversidad de AlicanteAlcoiSpain

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