An integrative analysis of the dynamics of landscapeand local-scale colonization of mediterranean woodlands by pinus halepensis

Efrat Sheffer, Charles D. Canham, Jaime Kigel, Avi Perevolotsky

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Scopus citations


Afforestation efforts have resulted in extensive plantations of either native or non-native conifers, which in many regions has led to the spread of those conifers into surrounding natural vegetation. This process of species colonization can trigger profound changes in both community dynamics and ecosystem processes. Our study disentangled the complexity of a process of colonization in a heterogeneous landscape into a simple set of rules. We analyzed the factors that control the colonization of natural woodland ecosystems by Pinus halepensis dispersing from plantations in the Mediterranean region of Israel. We developed maximum-likelihood models to explain the densities of P. halepensis colonizing natural woodlands. Our models unravel how P. halepensis colonization is controlled by factors that determine colonization pressure by dispersing seeds and by factors that control resistance to colonization of the natural ecosystems. Our models show that the combination of different seed arrival processes from local, landscape, and regional scales determine pine establishment potential, but the relative importance of each component varied according to seed source distribution. Habitat resistance, determined by abiotic and biotic conditions, was as important as propagule input in determining the density of pine colonization. Thus, despite the fact that pine propagules disperse throughout the landscape, habitat heterogeneity within the natural ecosystems generates significant variation in the actual densities of colonized pine. Our approach provides quantitative measures of how processes at different spatial scales affect the distribution and densities of colonizing species, and a basis for projection of expected distributions. Variation in colonization rates, due to landscape-scale heterogeneity in both colonization pressure and resistance to colonization, can be expected to produce a diversity of new ecosystems. This work provides a template for understanding species colonization processes, especially in light of anthropogenic impacts, and predicting future transformation of natural ecosystems by species invasion.

Original languageAmerican English
Article numbere90178
JournalPLoS ONE
Issue number2
StatePublished - 28 Feb 2014
Externally publishedYes


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