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Understanding the naturalization of Eucalyptus globulus in Portugal: a comparison with Australian plantations

Águas, Ana, Larcombe, Matthew J., Matias, Hugo, Deus, Ernesto, Potts, Brad M., Rego, Francisco C., Silva, Joaquim S.
European journal of forest research 2017 v.136 no.3 pp. 433-446
Eucalyptus globulus, biogeography, cultivation area, data collection, introduced species, linear models, plantations, stems, surveys, trees, Australia, Portugal
Despite the potential utility of a biogeographical approach to understanding the naturalization of exotic species, studies using this approach are scarce. Eucalyptus globulus is an economically important Australian tree species that has become naturalized in a number of countries where it was introduced. Portugal is an ideal territory to study the naturalization of E. globulus owing to: a long introduction history, the antipodal location compared to Australia and the large cultivated area. Wildling density was assessed in 116 E. globulus plantations in central Portugal through 213 transects established along plantation borders. Boosted regression trees were used to model the influence of plantation-scale variables. Results from this survey were compared with data obtained in plantations from seven Australian regions, where a similar sampling protocol had been used. In Portugal, wildlings were more abundant in plantations that were: located in moist aspects, coppiced, with older tree stems and corresponding to intermediate site growth indexes. The overall density (127 plants ha⁻¹) was 14.9 times higher than in the Australian estate, but this ratio was reduced to 3.1 in a more comparable subset of unburnt, first rotation plantations. A generalized linear model fitted using a dataset combining the two surveys showed that country influenced wildling density, together with plantation rotation and stem age. These results provide insights into the naturalization of a widely cultivated tree species, pointing to a fundamental role of the introduction history, possibly acting along with the biogeographical characteristics of the introduced range.