We investigated the presence and abundance of invasive alien plant species (IAS) in the riparian zones of rivers in relation to different environmental parameters. We surveyed the spatial and human-influenced characteristics of the riparian zones, river channels, and land use along seven Slovenian rivers. We further monitored the presence and abundance of IAS with different natural properties and different human impacts to define the characteristics of non-infected and heavily infected reaches. Special attention was given to different life forms of IAS. The presence and abundance of IAS positively correlated with distance from river source, current velocity, and water depth, and negatively correlated with altitude, naturalness of the land use, width and completeness of the riparian zone, height and structure of its vegetation, and condition of the riverbed and banks. Annuals prevailed among IAS at 48%, with 37% herbaceous perennials and 15% woody species. The vine Echinocystis lobata
was the most abundant IAS, which was found in 179 out of the 414 river reaches analysed, followed by the annual Impatiens glandulifera
and the herbaceous perennial Solidago gigantea. E. lobata
was spread over the native riparian vegetation and was affected by the natural gradients of the rivers in terms of altitude and distance from the river’s source. Reaches without IAS significantly differed from reaches colonised with IAS in the width of riparian zone, vegetation height and structure, land-use next to the river, and distance from the source. As IAS in riparian zones affect riparian and aquatic communities, there is the need for management practices to maintain and establish complex riparian zones that are resistant to IAS colonisation.
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