iForest - Biogeosciences and Forestry


Windstorm disturbance triggers multiple species invasion in an urban Mediterranean forest

Giuliano Bonanomi (1)   , Guido Incerti (2), Ahmed M Abd El-Gawad (3), Tushar C Sarker (1), Adriano Stinca (4), Riccardo Motti (1), Gaspare Cesarano (1), Maurizio Teobaldelli (1), Luigi Saulino (1), Francesco Cona (1), Giovanni Battista Chirico (1), Stefano Mazzoleni (1), Antonio Saracino (1)

iForest - Biogeosciences and Forestry, Volume 11, Issue 1, Pages 64-71 (2018)
doi: https://doi.org/10.3832/ifor2374-010
Published: Jan 25, 2018 - Copyright © 2018 SISEF

Research Articles

Plant invasion in forest ecosystems is a serious ecological and economic issue, deserving attention by researchers, managers and policy-makers worldwide. Many invasive plants have been reported as early successional species able to colonize disturbed areas following abrupt changes in microhabitat and resource availability. We investigated disturbance effects of a severe windstorm generated by a wet microburst (hail and rain at 160 mm h-1) remarkably affecting the canopy cover of an old-growth Quercus ilex urban forest in Southern Italy. This stand-replacing disturbance produced a mosaic of 103 gaps, 5.6 to 1632 m2 in size, over an area of 1.53 ha, uprooting 76% of the trees and decreasing thereby 85% of the standing above-ground dry biomass into the gaps. By intensive monitoring we compared above- and below-ground microclimate, soil moisture and mineral N availability in paired disturbed and control areas of the study forest. Within newly formed gaps we observed a seasonally consistent 70% higher content of nitrate nitrogen, 29% and 47% decreases of ammonia nitrogen in summer and autumn, respectively, and a higher moisture in topsoil, in addition to different above- and below-ground microclimatic conditions, with canopy cover mitigating extreme temperatures. One year after the windstorm, the microhabitat shift promoted the establishment in gaps of 15 native and 10 alien taxa previously absent in both disturbed and control plots. In such conditions, the rarefaction of the dominant Q. ilex canopy cover and the occurrence of empty niches prone to invasion could dramatically affect the local community structure and diversity. Our data indicate that stand-replacing windstorm can transiently transform the studied urban evergreen forest to an early allogenic successional community dominated, in the medium and large gaps, by annual and perennial non-native species. This is particularly relevant under a perspective of possible increasing frequency of windstorm events in the Mediterranean region in the near future.


Invasive Plants, Microburst, Mediterranean Evergreen Woodland, Quercus ilex, Resources Fluctuation, Empty Niche

Authors’ address

Giuliano Bonanomi
Tushar C Sarker
Riccardo Motti
Gaspare Cesarano
Maurizio Teobaldelli
Luigi Saulino
Francesco Cona
Giovanni Battista Chirico
Stefano Mazzoleni
Antonio Saracino
Department of Agricultural Sciences, University of Naples Federico II, v. Università 100, I-80055 Portici, Naples (Italy)
Guido Incerti
Department of Agri-Food, Animal and Environmental Sciences, University of Udine, v. delle Scienze 206, I-33100 Udine (Italy)
Ahmed M Abd El-Gawad
Botany Department, Faculty of Science, Mansoura University, Mansoura 35516 (Egypt)
Adriano Stinca
Department of Environmental, Biological and Pharmaceutical Sciences and Technologies, University of Campania Luigi Vanvitelli, v. Vivaldi 43, I-81100 Caserta (Italy)

Corresponding author

Giuliano Bonanomi


Bonanomi G, Incerti G, Abd El-Gawad AM, Sarker TC, Stinca A, Motti R, Cesarano G, Teobaldelli M, Saulino L, Cona F, Chirico GB, Mazzoleni S, Saracino A (2018). Windstorm disturbance triggers multiple species invasion in an urban Mediterranean forest. iForest 11: 64-71. - doi: 10.3832/ifor2374-010

Academic Editor

Michele Carbognani

Paper history

Received: Jan 23, 2017
Accepted: Nov 18, 2017

First online: Jan 25, 2018
Publication Date: Feb 28, 2018
Publication Time: 2.27 months

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