open access publication

Article, Early Access, 2023

Neophyte invasions in European heathlands and scrub

BIOLOGICAL INVASIONS, ISSN 1387-3547, 1387-3547, 10.1007/s10530-023-03005-7


Kalusova, Veronika 0000-0002-4270-321X (Corresponding author) [1] Chytrý, Milan 0000-0002-8122-3075 [1] Vecera, Martin 0000-0001-8507-791X [1] Jorgensen, Christian 0000-0001-6947-8094 [2] Biurrun, Idoia 0000-0002-1454-0433 [3] Kintrova, Katerina [1] Agrillo, Emiliano 0000-0003-2346-8346 [4] Carli, E. 0000-0003-2074-0973 [4] Ecker, Klaus [5] [6] Garbolino, Emmanuel 0000-0002-4954-6069 [7] Sibikova, Maria 0000-0001-8753-7393 [8] Šilc, Urban [9] Axmanova, Irena 0000-0001-9440-7976 [1]


  1. [1] Masaryk Univ, Fac Sci, Dept Bot & Zool, Brno, Czech Republic
  2. [NORA names: Czechia; Europe, EU; OECD];
  3. [2] Aarhus Univ, Ctr Biodivers Dynam Changing World BIOCHANGE, Dept Biol, Aarhus, Denmark
  4. [NORA names: AU Aarhus University; University; Denmark; Europe, EU; Nordic; OECD];
  5. [3] Univ Basque Country, Fac Sci & Technol, Dept Plant Biol & Ecol, UPV EHU, Bilbao, Spain
  6. [NORA names: Spain; Europe, EU; OECD];
  7. [4] Inst Environm Protect & Res ISPRA, Rome, Italy
  8. [NORA names: Italy; Europe, EU; OECD];
  9. [5] Swiss Fed Inst Forest Snow & Landscape Res WSL, Biodivers & Conservat Biol Res Unit, Birmensdorf, Switzerland
  10. [NORA names: Switzerland; Europe, Non-EU; OECD];


Human-assisted introduction of alien plants is causing ecosystem transformations worldwide and is considered an important threat to biodiversity. We provide a European assessment of habitat levels of invasion in heathlands and scrub and identify successful alien plants and invasion trends across biogeographical regions. We analysed a geographically stratified data set of 24,220 dwarf shrub and scrub vegetation plots sampled across Europe. Among the 6547 vascular plant taxa occurring in these plots, we identified 311 neophytes (4.8%, i.e. alien species introduced in Europe or its sub-regions after 1500 AD) and compared five metrics of the level of invasion in (i) EUNIS habitats, (ii) broad habitat groups and (iii) biogeographical regions of Europe. We related habitat-specific levels of invasion to elevation and climatic variables using generalized linear models. Among neophytes, phanerophytes of non-European origin prevailed. The most frequent neophytes in the plots were Prunus serotina, Robinia pseudoacacia and Quercus rubra among phanerophytes, Impatiens parviflora among therophytes, and Erigeron canadensis and Solidago gigantea among hemicryptophytes. Levels of invasion significantly differed among habitats and biogeographical regions. The most invaded habitat was Macaronesian lowland scrub, followed by riparian scrub, Rubus scrub and forest-clearing scrub of temperate Europe, and coastal dune scrub of the Atlantic region. The levels of invasion were low in the shrublands of the Arctic and Mediterranean regions and decreased with elevation within habitats. Results suggest that insularity, low elevation, frequent disturbances, and high availability or considerable fluctuation of resources promote neophyte invasions in European shrublands.


Alien plants, Biogeographical regions, EUNIS, Europe, Level of invasion, Shrubland

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