Increasing status of non-native vascular plants in the Sefton Coast sand-dune system, north Merseyside, UK


  • Philip H. Smith None



alien plants; garden escapes; invasive; Japanese rose; neophytes; sea buckthorn


Over 460 non-native (alien) taxa were recorded in a Sefton Coast sand-dune vascular plant inventory, their proportion in the flora increasing after 1999. Between 2005/06 and 2018, twice as many non-native as native plants were found. An analysis of occurrences of native and non-native taxa in six major habitat types found that a higher proportion of aliens was present in scrub/woodland and disturbed ground, while native plants had more occurrences in fixed dunes/dune grasslands, dune heath and wetlands. No differences between the two groups were detected for strandline/shingle and embryo/mobile dune habitats. Twenty-four non-native and 14 native taxa showed invasive characteristics in the duneland. The former included especially Hippophae rhamnoides and Rosa rugosa, both constituting major threats to sand-dune biodiversity. Particularly invasive native plants were Arrhenatherum elatius, Betula spp., Salix cinerea, and Ulex europaea. The main findings accord with studies elsewhere in Britain and Europe showing recent increases of neophytes in semi-natural habitats and that both non-native and native species can have invasive traits. The open habitats of coastal dunes seem to be particularly susceptible to plant invasions.