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Non-native Spartina spp. have invaded many coastal saltmarshes worldwide. Introduced Spartina may cause problems like displacement of native vegetation and hybridisation with native species, leading to changes to relevant ecosystem services and saltmarsh geomorphology. Here we report the extensive and so far overlooked replacement of the native Spartina maritima by non-native S. anglica and S. townsendii along 400 km of the coast of the north-western Adriatic Sea (Mediterranean Sea). We analysed the distribution of both native and non-native Spartina spp. along the six main saltmarsh areas in the region, and produced maps of their presence by using a combination of genetic tools, morphological analysis and geotagged photographs, complemented with field observations. We also reviewed historical herbaria from the region to explore when the first non-native introductions could have occured. We found that S. anglica and S. townsendii are unexpectedly widespread, having established along the whole study region, in one lagoon totally replacing the local native species. Its introduction happened virtually unnoticed, and misidentified herbarium specimens date back as early as 1987. We discuss the ecological implications of this overlooked extensive replacement, and the need for a comprehensive assessment of the status of the saltmarshes in this region, both to protect the few remaining patches of the native S. maritima and control the spread of the non-native species across the Mediterranean Sea.
Biological Invasions – Springer Journals
Published: Feb 16, 2018
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