Recent Studies of Invasion Ecology in the Mediterranean Basin

A special issue of Diversity (ISSN 1424-2818). This special issue belongs to the section "Biodiversity Loss & Dynamics".

Deadline for manuscript submissions: closed (30 November 2023) | Viewed by 13094

Special Issue Editors


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Guest Editor
Department of Environment, University of the Aegean, Xenia building, 81132 Mytilene, Greece
Interests: invasive alien species; invasion ecology; ecosystem functioning; biodiversity and conservation

E-Mail Website
Guest Editor
Department of Environment, University of the Aegean, 81132 Mytilene, Greece
Interests: biodiversity and ecosystem processes; functional plant ecology; community ecology; biodiversity conservation; conservation policy
Special Issues, Collections and Topics in MDPI journals

Special Issue Information

Dear Colleagues,

The Mediterranean Basin is one of the world’s richest regions in terms of plant and animal diversity and one of the 34 biodiversity hotspots recognized globally. Moreover, this diverse area hosts an exceptional heterogeneity of natural and cultural landscapes that have coexisted and coevolved for centuries. Unfortunately, as a result of the interactive effects of major components of global environmental change, it is also expected to suffer severe proportional changes in biodiversity and ecosystem functioning.  

Biological invasions are also considered a key driver of biodiversity and ecosystem degradation that affects human and social wellbeing at local, regional, and global scales. Although habitats in the Mediterranean Basin, compared to other Mediterranean-climate regions, seem to be the most resistant to biological invasions, the ongoing spread of invasive alien species (IAS), along with other socioeconomic factors, such as land use changes, land abandonment, expansion of the tourist industry, and intense anthropogenic activity particularly on islands and coastal habitats, suggest an urgency in studying, understanding, and managing biological invasions in the region.

In this Special Issue, we focus on terrestrial, marine, and freshwater ecosystems in the Mediterranean Basin, with a special interest in protected areas and islands. We welcome the submission of manuscripts that address biological invasions from various perspectives, including IAS surveys, trait, climatic niche, and spatial patterns studies, pathway and vector analyses, risk assessments and eradication campaigns reports, environmental and socioeconomic impact estimations, and conservation and management strategies.

Dr. Alexandros Galanidis
Prof. Dr. Panayiotis Dimitrakopoulos
Guest Editors

Manuscript Submission Information

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Please visit the Instructions for Authors page before submitting a manuscript. The Article Processing Charge (APC) for publication in this open access journal is 2600 CHF (Swiss Francs). Submitted papers should be well formatted and use good English. Authors may use MDPI's English editing service prior to publication or during author revisions.

Keywords

  •  species surveys
  •  species traits
  •  climatic niche
  •  spatial distribution
  •  pathways and vectors
  •  risk assessments
  •  eradication
  •  impacts
  •  economic cost
  •  conservation and management
  •  protected areas
  •  islands  

Published Papers (6 papers)

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Research

23 pages, 5101 KiB  
Article
Terrestrial Alien Flora of the Iberian Alboran Coast: Assessment, Attributes, and Future Implications
by Estefany Goncalves, Federico Casimiro-Soriguer Solanas, Javier García-Caballero and Noelia Hidalgo-Triana
Diversity 2023, 15(11), 1120; https://doi.org/10.3390/d15111120 - 28 Oct 2023
Viewed by 1295
Abstract
Although Mediterranean coastal regions in southern Spain have high floristic diversity and numerous Habitats of Community Interest (HCIs) identified by the European Union Directive Council, they are also vulnerable to invasive plants. In our study, we aimed to create a checklist of terrestrial [...] Read more.
Although Mediterranean coastal regions in southern Spain have high floristic diversity and numerous Habitats of Community Interest (HCIs) identified by the European Union Directive Council, they are also vulnerable to invasive plants. In our study, we aimed to create a checklist of terrestrial alien taxa in the Iberian area of the Alboran coast, assess each species’ current invasion, analyse the influence of environmental attributes on invasion, estimate the richness of alien species per HCI group, and evaluate each species’ potential invasiveness based on its reproductive and dispersal attributes. The checklist that we developed includes 123 alien taxa, most belonging to the Asteraceae, Asparagaceae, and Poaceae families. Notably, 20% of the species are super invaders that occupy more than 20% of HCIs. We also identified Aloe vera, Cylindropuntia spp., Agave salmiana, Opuntia spp., and Paspalum spp. as incipient invaders with the potential for future expansion. Although most alien flora in the HCIs are not regulated by Spanish legislation (RDL 630/2013), monitoring and eradication plans are crucial. Advocating the cessation of using those plants in gardens and reducing anthropogenic pressure are also essential, as human activities worsen invasion dynamics and facilitate the introduction and establishment of invasive species. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Recent Studies of Invasion Ecology in the Mediterranean Basin)
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13 pages, 1147 KiB  
Article
The Possible Failed Pre-Linnaean Introduction in the Mediterranean Sea: An Archival Case Study of the Brown Mussel Perna perna
by Daniel Faget, Charles François Boudouresque and Christophe Lejeusne
Diversity 2023, 15(10), 1072; https://doi.org/10.3390/d15101072 - 10 Oct 2023
Viewed by 945
Abstract
Most species arriving from a donor to a recipient area do not succeed in establishing long-lasting self-sustaining populations. However, successful introductions are far better documented than those that failed, especially those occurring before or near the advent of the Linnaean binomial nomenclature. We [...] Read more.
Most species arriving from a donor to a recipient area do not succeed in establishing long-lasting self-sustaining populations. However, successful introductions are far better documented than those that failed, especially those occurring before or near the advent of the Linnaean binomial nomenclature. We report here an introduction from the mid-18th century (possibly in 1750 or 1751) of an exotic mussel transported as fouling on ship hulls from the western coast of Morocco (Atlantic Ocean) to the port of Marseilles (Mediterranean Sea). The exotic mussel, which survived several years, has been identified as probably being the brown mussel, Perna perna, a species with warm-water affinities, which much later became invasive in several areas of the world ocean. The documents of the 18th and early 19th century, which mentioned the event, held ‘the curious’ and ‘amateurs’, who harvested the mussels, responsible for its extirpation. More realistically, it is hypothesised that the mussel population did not survive the return of severe cold weather conditions, after a few relatively mild decades, in the context of the Little Ice Age (LIA). These conclusions were deduced from historical data and are therefore open to discussion. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Recent Studies of Invasion Ecology in the Mediterranean Basin)
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18 pages, 8807 KiB  
Article
Invading the Greek Seas: Spatiotemporal Patterns of Marine Impactful Alien and Cryptogenic Species
by Michail Ragkousis, Maria Sini, Nikoletta Koukourouvli, Argyro Zenetos and Stelios Katsanevakis
Diversity 2023, 15(3), 353; https://doi.org/10.3390/d15030353 - 1 Mar 2023
Cited by 6 | Viewed by 2966
Abstract
The Greek Seas are greatly exposed to the proliferation of marine alien species. At least 242 alien species have been reported within Greek territorial waters, three-quarters of which are considered established, while their rate of introduction is increasing. Some of these species exhibit [...] Read more.
The Greek Seas are greatly exposed to the proliferation of marine alien species. At least 242 alien species have been reported within Greek territorial waters, three-quarters of which are considered established, while their rate of introduction is increasing. Some of these species exhibit high invasiveness, imposing severe impacts on native ecosystems and ecosystem services. The spatiotemporal proliferation of these species outside their natural boundaries depends on several parameters, including their biological characteristics, native distribution range, introduction pathway, and time of initial introduction. Knowing the current and potential alien species distribution is essential for the implementation of effective management actions. To investigate the distribution of impactful cryptogenic and alien species (ICAS) in the Greek Seas, we combined all records available until the end of 2020 from eight types of data sources: (1) scientific literature, (2) grey literature, (3) offline databases, (4) online scientific databases, (5) personal observations of independent researchers, (6) communications with divers and diving centers, (7) in situ underwater sampling, and (8) social networks. The results of 5478 georeferenced records refer to 60 marine ICAS belonging to 16 taxonomic groups. The number of records and the overall number of ICAS present an increasing trend from the northern to the southern parts of our study area, and there is a clear distinction in community composition between the northern and southern subregions. This latitudinal gradient is mainly due to the large number of thermophilous Lessepsian species of West Indo-Pacific origin, which reach the southern parts of the study area through unaided dispersal. On the other hand, transport stowaways appear to be more prevalent in areas located near large ports, which show significant differences in ICAS numbers and community composition compared to sites located far from ports. Most records (>40% of the total) were associated with rocky reefs, partly reflecting the preference of divers for this habitat type but also the presence of conspicuous, reef-associated impactful fish. The number of published records, as well as the number of reported ICAS, shows a dramatic increase with time, highlighting the urgent need for immediate proactive management actions and scientifically informed control measures. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Recent Studies of Invasion Ecology in the Mediterranean Basin)
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15 pages, 2254 KiB  
Article
Solanum elaeagnifolium (Solanaceae) Invading One in Five Natura 2000 Protected Areas of Greece and One in Four Habitat Types: What Is Next?
by Nikos Krigas, Nefta-Eleftheria Votsi, Ioulietta Samartza, Georgios Katsoulis and Maria A. Tsiafouli
Diversity 2023, 15(2), 143; https://doi.org/10.3390/d15020143 - 20 Jan 2023
Cited by 2 | Viewed by 1921
Abstract
Invasive alien plants have severe impacts on biodiversity and ecosystem services worldwide. To assess the invasion of Solanum elaeagnifolium Cav. (a major alien invasive plant; Solanaceae) in Greek protected areas (PAs), we conducted an extensive drive-by survey across the country crossing half of [...] Read more.
Invasive alien plants have severe impacts on biodiversity and ecosystem services worldwide. To assess the invasion of Solanum elaeagnifolium Cav. (a major alien invasive plant; Solanaceae) in Greek protected areas (PAs), we conducted an extensive drive-by survey across the country crossing half of the Greek Natura 2000 sites. The occurrence data were then linked in GIS with (i) the boundaries of the Natura 2000 sites, (ii) the mapped habitat types in the invaded sites, and (iii) the Corine land cover, from which we calculated the ecosystem services. The results showed that approximately 24% of the investigated PAs were invaded by S.elaeagnifolium to varying degrees of extension and density of the populations. A variety of 29 different habitat types of Annex I of the Directive 92/43/EEC (including a priority habitat and seven habitat types of national importance) were found to be invaded (one in four habitat types present in Greece). In the invaded Natura 2000 sites, we recorded human activities/threats that were mostly related to agricultural activities of high intensity, while the potential in ecosystem service provision was relatively low for the category of regulating services in the invaded sites. Our study provides the first nationwide report of the distribution of S. elaeagnifolium in Natura 2000 sites of Greece, providing baseline maps and information for future monitoring. Our results highlight the need of an effective management strategy across the Natura 2000 network to effectively protect the local biodiversity, which should include management measures for invasive species, mitigating habitat fragmentation, and soil degradation, as well as the adaptation of eco-enhancing management strategies for the provision of multiple ecosystem services in agriculture. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Recent Studies of Invasion Ecology in the Mediterranean Basin)
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14 pages, 20867 KiB  
Communication
A New Invasion of the Common Slider on a Mediterranean Island (Lesvos, Greece): A Potential Threat to Native Terrapin Populations?
by Apostolos Christopoulos and Yiannis G. Zevgolis
Diversity 2022, 14(12), 1018; https://doi.org/10.3390/d14121018 - 23 Nov 2022
Cited by 5 | Viewed by 2300
Abstract
Island wetlands are considered crucial to biodiversity due to their unique ecological, biogeographical, and socioeconomic dynamics. However, these habitat types are particularly vulnerable to invasion; invasive species can cause severe ecological, evolutionary, and epidemiological impacts on native species. One of the most important [...] Read more.
Island wetlands are considered crucial to biodiversity due to their unique ecological, biogeographical, and socioeconomic dynamics. However, these habitat types are particularly vulnerable to invasion; invasive species can cause severe ecological, evolutionary, and epidemiological impacts on native species. One of the most important invasive species, the common slider Trachemys scripta, an opportunistic inhabitant of freshwater habitats, has been released in multiple localities across Greece in recent years, and has expanded its range through random and unintentional releases in the Aegean islands. Since its first documented record on the island of Crete in 1998, the species has been observed on six more islands. Here, we report, for the first time, two subspecies of the common slider (T. scripta scripta and T. scripta elegans) on the wetlands of the island of Lesvos. We discuss the potential threats to native terrapins and we examine whether the introduction of this invasive species has affected native terrapins by monitoring their populations for 12 consecutive years (2010–2022). We found the common slider in 3 out of 110 wetlands surveyed. At one site, we document the presence of invasive terrapins belonging to two different subspecies. In all surveyed wetlands, we found stable populations of the two native freshwater terrapins, Mauremys rivulata and Emys orbicularis, with the first species found in much larger populations than the second. Despite these reassuring findings, the presence of this introduced species on the island of Lesvos raises serious concerns regarding its negative effects on the local terrapin populations. We propose that systematic and thorough monitoring of insular wetlands, as in the case of Lesvos, should be adopted on other islands as well, with priority on those where the common slider has been recorded. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Recent Studies of Invasion Ecology in the Mediterranean Basin)
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17 pages, 466 KiB  
Article
Socio-Economic Risks Posed by a New Plant Disease in the Mediterranean Basin
by Gianluigi Cardone, Michele Digiaro, Khaled Djelouah, Michel Frem, Cosimo Rota, Alessia Lenders and Vincenzo Fucilli
Diversity 2022, 14(11), 975; https://doi.org/10.3390/d14110975 - 12 Nov 2022
Cited by 6 | Viewed by 2353
Abstract
Xylella fastidiosa (Wells 1987, hereafter Xf), the causal agent of several devastating plant diseases, is threatening new countries of the Euro-Mediterranean, Balkans, Middle East, and North Africa (MENA) regions. In this perspective, a study was carried out to: (a) explore the potential [...] Read more.
Xylella fastidiosa (Wells 1987, hereafter Xf), the causal agent of several devastating plant diseases, is threatening new countries of the Euro-Mediterranean, Balkans, Middle East, and North Africa (MENA) regions. In this perspective, a study was carried out to: (a) explore the potential establishment and spread and losses caused by Xf in Euro-Mediterranean countries (i.e., France, Greece, Italy, Portugal, and Spain) and the Balkans (i.e., Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Montenegro, North Macedonia, Serbia, and Slovenia); (b) assess the potential introduction of Xf in the MENA countries (i.e., Algeria, Egypt, Israel, Jordan, Lebanon, Libya, Morocco, Palestine, Syria, Tunisia, and Turkey); and (c) project the socio-economic impacts of Xf on olives, grapes, citrus, and almonds in these countries. A novel socio-economic risk assessment technique was developed and applied for these purposes. It revealed that Albania had the highest risk for Xf dispersal. In addition, the risk assessment also confirmed the vulnerability of Euro-Mediterranean countries in terms of Xf dispersal. In the MENA and Balkans regions, countries with fragmented and small farms are likely to face the worst social impacts, whereas the Euro-Mediterranean region runs the highest economic losses on the target crops. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Recent Studies of Invasion Ecology in the Mediterranean Basin)
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