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Distribution, habitat and biomass of Pittosporum undulatum, the most important woody plant invader in the Azores Archipelago

Lourenço, Patrícia, Medeiros, Vasco, Gil, Artur, Silva, Luís
Forest ecology and management 2011 v.262 no.2 pp. 178-187
chemical composition, parks, islands, sea level, wood, cutting, Pittosporum, pure stands, trees, combustion, forest inventory, indigenous species, biomass production, woody plants, woodlands, habitats, gasification, Azores, Australia
Pittosporum undulatum Ventenat (Pittosporaceae) is a tree or shrub native to Australia introduced in the Azores Islands in the 19th century, presently naturalized in the nine islands. According to a random survey of vascular plants in the Azores, the invader is present throughout the archipelago, in 62% of 547 1-km² samples. It was found in pure or mixed stands, forming groups and also as isolated trees. P. undulatum was frequently found in native scrubland (62%), mixed woodland (39%) and hedgerows (25%). The altitudinal range extended from sea level up to about 800m a.s.l., with the highest frequency between 100 and 400m. The woody species more strongly associated with P. undulatum included characteristic native and endemic species as well as non-indigenous and invasive taxa. Based on a forest inventory, 49% of the forested area in the Azores, about 24,000ha, is occupied by P. undulatum. Considerable areas inside Island Natural Parks are covered by this species. The estimated annual P. undulatum biomass production in the Azores might range from only about 150 Mg in the small island of Corvo up to more than 60,000 Mg in Pico Island. The heating value of its wood and its chemical composition make it a good candidate for use in combustion or gasification processes. Since there are no resources available to control this large-scale invasion, using P. undulatum biomass for energy production might be an important factor to stimulate the progressive and sustainable cutting of its stands and its replacement by Macaronesian species.