Distribution, abundance, and effect on plant species diversity of Sasa borealis in Korean forests
Background: Sasa borealis (Hack.) Makino, a clonal dwarf bamboo, is widespread in Korean forests. Although S. borealis is native to that country, its growth habit can cause considerable harm when occupying particular areas where it dominates and influences those forested communities. However, few reports have described the extent of its inhibitory effects on the vigor of co-existing plant species. Therefore, we investigated the distribution, abundance, and diversity of other plant species in the communities where this plant occurs in the east-central forests on the Korean Peninsula. Results: S. borealis was most commonly found at an elevational range of 800 to 1,200 m, on gentle, usually lower, and near valley northern slopes. Out of the 13 forest communities based on 447 forest stands that we surveyed, S. borealis was detected in eight communities, mostly where Quercus mongolica dominates. In particular, it was more common in late-successional mixed stands of Q. mongolica, other deciduous species, and the coniferous Abies holophylla. Because of their ability to expand rapidly in the forest, this plant covered more than 50% of the surface in most of our research plots. Species diversity declined significantly (F = 78.7, p = 0.000) as the abundance of S. borealis increased in the herb stratum. The same trend was noted for the total number of species (F = 18.1, p = 0.000) and species evenness (F = 91.5, p = 0.000). Conclusions: These findings clearly demonstrate that S. borealis is a weed pest and severely hinders species diversity. Authorities should be implementing various measures for ecological control to take advantage of declining chance after the recent synchronized massive flowering of S. borealis.
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