The roles of habitat features, disturbance, and distance from putative source populations in structuring alien plant invasions at the urban/wildland interface on the Cape Peninsula, South Africa
Natural areas are becoming increasingly fragmented and embedded in an urban matrix. Natural and semi-natural areas at the urban/wildland interface are threatened by a variety of 'edge effects', and are especially vulnerable to invasion by introduced plants, with suburban gardens acting as significant sources of alien propagules. Urban/wildland interfaces also provide access for humans, leading to various types of disturbance. Alien plant invasions are one of the biggest threats facing remaining natural areas on the Cape Peninsula, South Africa. The area provides an ideal opportunity to study the dynamics of invasions at the urban/wildland interface, since the largest natural area, the Table Mountain National Park (TMNP), is surrounded by the city of Cape Town. We explored invasion patterns in Newlands Forest (a small section of the TMNP) and detailed the roles of habitat features and distance from putative source populations in three main habitat types: natural Afromontane forest, riverine woodland habitats, and plantations of exotic pines (Pinus radiata and P. pinaster). We also examined the role of disturbance in driving invasions in two of these habitat types (Afromontane forest and pine plantations). We hypothesized that alien richness and alien stem density would decrease with distance from the urban/wildland interface, and that alien richness and alien stem density would increase with increasing levels of human disturbance. Distance from putative source populations and levels of anthropogenic disturbance influenced alien richness in Newlands Forest but not alien stem density. Alien richness decreased significantly with distance from presumed sources in the pine habitat, and increased significantly with disturbance in the forest habitat. Percentage overstorey cover and soil pH were important environmental variables associated with alien plant species. A socio-economic approach is discussed as being the most effective approach to the management and prevention of alien plant species in Newlands Forest. © 2006 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.