Non-native plants in the understory of riparian forests across a land use gradient in the Southeast
As urbanization expands into rural areas, an increase in the number of non-native plant species at the urban-rural interface is expected due in large part to the increased availability of propagules from ornamental plantings. A study investigating the distribution of non-native plants in the understories of riparian forests across an urban-to-rural gradient north of Columbus, GA was initiated in 2003. A significantly greater number of non-native plant species occurred at the urban sites and at one site at the urban-rural interface, where 20 to 33% of the species encountered were non-native. In contrast, at the more rural sites non-native species comprised 4–14% of the total number of species. However, the importance values of non-native species as a whole did not change significantly across the land use gradient due to the high frequency and abundance of three non-native species (Ligustrum sinense, Lonicera japonica, and Microstegium vimineum) in the majority of the watersheds. Reductions in species richness and overstory reproduction associated with these non-natives could impact long-term forest structure and ecosystem function.