First Advisor

Marion Dresner

Date of Publication

Spring 6-11-2014

Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Science (M.S.) in Environmental Science and Management


Environmental Science and Management




English ivy -- Oregon -- Portland -- Case studies, Invasive plants -- Oregon -- Portland, Understory plants -- Ecology -- Oregon -- Portland



Physical Description

1 online resource (ix, 101 pages)


Invasive species degrade ecosystems by altering natural processes and decreasing the abundance and diversity of native flora. Communities with major fluctuations in resource supply allow invasive species to exploit limiting resources making the community prone to invasion. In the Pacific Northwest, urban forests characterized with limited light and seasonally limited soil moisture are being dominated by nonnative English ivy (Hedera spp). Three observational studies were conducted in the Southern end of Forest Park within the Balch Creek Subwatershed in Portland, Oregon in order to understand 1) how English ivy changes over three growing seasons, 2) how the native understory composition responds to English ivy, 3) if the dominance of English ivy reduces soil moisture to neighboring plants, 4) how English ivy and two co-occurring native herbs (Hydrophyllum tenuipes and Vancouveria hexandra) physiologically respond to seasonal changes in soil moisture. Percent cover of the understory community was collected in both 2010 and 2013 growing seasons in 54 plots in order to understand the change in cover over time. Community response and the relationship with soil moisture was analyzed using percent cover of the understory community and associated environmental variables including soil moisture collected in 128 plots during the 2013 field season. Finally, 15 plots with co-occurring Hedera spp, H. tenuipes and V. hexandra were sampled for stomatal conductance, leaf water potential, and associated environmental variables. Results show ivy cover increases on average 14% between 2010 and 2013 while native understory cover increased on average < 1%. Once ivy forms dense cover over 44% there is a reduction of native richness, diversity and herb cover while also an increase in available soil moisture and deciduous canopy cover. There were disparate impacts to different functional groups and between species. As functional group, the herbaceous community was the most impacted by ivy invasion. The shrubs and fern community had a variable response to ivy invasion. Many of the fern and shrub species least impacted by ivy also had associations with high soil moisture and deciduous canopy cover. Finally, data suggests that ivy does not take advantage of seasonally limiting soil moisture to invade the understory community. This study indicates that English ivy is both efficient at water use and may have the ability to obtain water from distant locations throughout the forest. Once established, ivy has the ability to alter the community composition. Ivy removal and habitat restoration are essential in order to maintain and enhance biodiversity in Forest Park.


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