Effects of exotic plant species on soil properties in hardwood forests of New Jersey

P. S. Kourtev, J. G. Ehrenfeld, W. Z. Huang

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

117 Scopus citations


Two exotic plant species, Berberis thunbergii and Microstegium vimineum, recently have invaded deciduous hardwood forests in the Northeast. We examined changes in soil properties that may be associated with this invasion in three parks in northern New Jersey. In each park, we collected soil and vegetation data along transects that were established across heavily infested areas and extended into uninvaded forest. The data were analyzed statistically by ANOVA and Canonical Correspondence Analysis (CCA). Significant differences were found between invaded and uninvaded plots in both soil and vegetation characteristics. Invaded areas have fewer oaks (Quercus spp.) in the canopy, and lack the native understory shrubs (Vaccinium spp.). The pH of soils in the invaded areas is significantly higher than in the uninvaded areas, and the litter and organic horizons are thinner. The data cannot show that the exotic species have caused these changes. However, the occurrence of contrasting soils in adjacent areas of native vegetation, with no evidence of differences in land-use history between areas, suggests that such a cause-and-effect relationship exists. We propose a feedback loop involving the exotic plants, and the presence of earthworms to explain these dramatic soil differences.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)493-501
Number of pages9
JournalWater, Air, and Soil Pollution
Issue number1-2
StatePublished - Jul 1998


  • Berberis thunbergii
  • Invasive species
  • Microstegium vimineum
  • New Jersey
  • Soil chemistry


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