Posted in | News | Ecology | Ecosystems

Mediterranean Ecosystems at Risk From Invasive Plant Seed Banks

Some invasive plants can form persistent banks of seeds that remain under the soil for years, and this makes their eradication practically impossible. Over time, this invisible population of large quantities of living, buried plants -; in seed form -;, will reoccupy ecosystems and displace the typical flora of the natural environment.

This is the case of the invasive plants that are common in the Mediterranean habitats, according to an article published in the journal Trends in Plant Science, signed by Professor Sergi Munné-Bosch, from the Faculty of Biology, the Biodiversity Research Institute (IRBio) and the Institute for Research in Nutrition and Food Safety (INSA) of the University of Barcelona.

How do Invasive Plants Spread?

The great resistance and dispersal capacity of the invasive plants has completely transformed the flora on the Mediterranean coasts. The native flora, on the other hand, does not have such efficient spreading mechanisms as the invasive plants.

The new study, focused on CarpobrotusAcaciaAgave, and Opuntia, reveals the sophisticated strategies of invasive plants to occupy new habitats successfully and move the native flora.

"The most paradigmatic case is that of the genus Carpobrotus, which includes several plant species; some are already capable of forming hybrids so specially adapted to Mediterranean habitats that they can colonize areas as specific as the coastline of the coasts of Catalonia", says Sergi Munné-Bosch, who has been featured as one of the most influential experts in the world according to the prestigious Clarivate Analytics list of 2023.

"They are very resistant to changing conditions associated with climate change and show a perfect combination of clonal and sexual reproduction to be able to colonize new spaces quickly. In addition, one of the most important characteristics of this genus is its ability to create persistent seed banks that remain buried for years".

Today, one only needs to walk along the coastal paths of the Costa Brava and other parts of the coast to see the effects of these plants. "The case of the Opuntia genus is also very evident along the coastline of the Alt Empordà and southern France, among many other places with fragmented habitats, which are the areas most susceptible to colonization by invasive plants", stresses the author, member of the Department of Evolutionary Biology, Ecology and Environmental Sciences.

Human Activity and Biological Invasions

The author notes: "These biological invasions have been caused by ourselves, humans, by creating a high propagule pressure (number of seeds or plant components arriving in a given area) in these fragmented habitats".

"All these areas show a significant characteristic: the footprint left by humans. Human activities (gardening, urban planning, tourism, etc.) end up fragmenting natural habitats and facilitate the introduction of new species that then adapt extraordinarily to the spaces that we have modified forever", says Sergi Munné-Bosch. 

"After all, it is our lack of knowledge that has led us to have Mediterranean habitats particularly threatened by the presence of invasive plants that will never return to the way they were before".

Prevention to Protect the Environment

Historical records show that many invasive species have benefited greatly from human-driven reintroductions. Thus, conserving natural areas away from the threat of invasive species and preventing future colonization is the only effective strategy to preserve the natural environment.

"We have to prevent the invasion of colonizing plants where they have not yet been introduced by human action. Even if there are many awareness campaigns, likely, we will never manage to eradicate them, at least in some areas", says the researcher. 

"We must be aware that the unintentional introduction of a single plant (in landscaping or as a result of the construction of a road or a new development) in a place that is unsuitable from a nature conservation point of view can lead to major changes in our natural ecosystems. Our activity can greatly influence natural ecosystems and lead to their degradation. Preserving nature is the best investment to preserve the existence of our species, and that is why the protection of natural areas must be a priority", concludes the expert.


Tell Us What You Think

Do you have a review, update or anything you would like to add to this news story?

Leave your feedback
Your comment type
Azthena logo powered by Azthena AI

Your AI Assistant finding answers from trusted AZoM content

Your AI Powered Scientific Assistant

Hi, I'm Azthena, you can trust me to find commercial scientific answers from

A few things you need to know before we start. Please read and accept to continue.

  • Use of “Azthena” is subject to the terms and conditions of use as set out by OpenAI.
  • Content provided on any AZoNetwork sites are subject to the site Terms & Conditions and Privacy Policy.
  • Large Language Models can make mistakes. Consider checking important information.

Great. Ask your question.

While we only use edited and approved content for Azthena answers, it may on occasions provide incorrect responses. Please confirm any data provided with the related suppliers or authors. We do not provide medical advice, if you search for medical information you must always consult a medical professional before acting on any information provided.

Your questions, but not your email details will be shared with OpenAI and retained for 30 days in accordance with their privacy principles.

Please do not ask questions that use sensitive or confidential information.

Read the full Terms & Conditions.