The epiphytic bryophyte community of Atlantic oak woodlands shows clear signs of recovery following the removal of invasive Rhododendron ponticum

Janet E. Maclean, Ruth J Mitchell, David F.R.P. Burslem, David Genney, Jeanette Hall, Robin J. Pakeman

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Increased awareness of the negative impacts of invasive non-native species has led to a rapid increase in clearance programs around the world. One of the main goals of clearance is the restoration of native communities that were present pre-invasion. Little monitoring is typically carried out, however, to verify that native communities return without further management intervention in the years following invasive species removal. We investigated whether the epiphytic plant community of Atlantic oak woodlands, which principally consists of bryophyte species, returned after up to thirty years of recovery following the removal of the invasive non-native shrub Rhododendron ponticum. This community is of international conservation value and is particularly threatened by invasive Rhododendron. We revealed that the epiphytic plant community was able to recover effectively in sites that had been clear from Rhododendron for over fifteen years. This recovery included several species of particular conservation interest with highly restricted European distributions (i.e. ‘Atlantic species’ such as Plagiochila heterophylla). Total cover and species richness both returned to similar or even higher levels to those found in uninvaded control plots by fifteen or more years following clearance, despite being highly reduced within dense Rhododendron thickets. Overall community composition also recovered to resemble uninvaded control plots in the years following Rhododendron removal. These findings present an encouraging message that at least some native communities can return naturally in the years following invasive species removal and may not require further management interventions to speed their return.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)96-104
Number of pages9
JournalBiological Conservation
Issue numberPart A
Early online date12 Jun 2017
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2017


  • Atlantic oak woodland
  • Bryophytes
  • Epiphytes
  • Invasive species
  • Restoration
  • Rhododendron ponticum


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