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PLANT INVASIONS IN RHODE ISLAND RIPARIAN ZONES
LUSSIER, S. M. AND S. N. DASILVA. PLANT INVASIONS IN RHODE ISLAND RIPARIAN ZONES. The Rhode Island Naturalist . Rhode Island Natural History Survey, Kingston, RI, 12(2):1-5, (2005).
to assess the relationship of land use with the occurrence of invasive plant species in vegetated riparian zones and their corresponding usage by different species of birds
The vegetation in riparian zones provides valuable wildlife habitat while enhancing instream habitat and water quality. Forest fragmentation, sunlit edges, and nutrient additions from adjacent development may be sources of stress on riparian zones. Landscape plants may include nonnative species, which can become invasive and out-compete native flora, causing ecological damage. Our objective was to assess the relationship of land use with the occurrence of invasive plant species in vegetated riparian zones and their corresponding usage by different species of birds. A Geographic Information System was used to delineate the subwatersheds and document land use surrounding the sampled riparian corridors. We compared the vegetation structure within the protected buffers of our sites by determining what plants were growing in three plant zones (or layers): herbaceous plants (ground cover), shrubs/saplings (understory), and tree canopy (overstory). The results of this study demonstrate that total vegetation coverage in riparian zones decreased as residential land use increased while the number of invasive plant species and forest fragmentation increased. Our results showed that riparian zones with residential land use greater than 24% had less dense vegetation, more invasive plant species covering greater area, and more forest edge habitat from fragmented landscape. Our results can be applied by environmental managers to assess vegetated habitat in riparian corridors for conservation of native riparian vegetation and protection of habitat for bird populations.