Are invasive plant species a threat to oak-hickory forests of West Virginia? Invasive plant species are often characterized by early successional traits, including small seeds that are wind and animal dispersed, vegetative growth, and shade-intolerance, all of which enable the plants to take advantage of disturbed areas and spread rapidly. One may conclude that these traits do not lend themselves to easy invasion of a forest and the apparent low impact of invasive plant species on forests, compared to riparian and rangeland sites, may support this. However, oak-hickory forests are unique because their canopies are relatively open compared to other hardwood forests, and the native species respond well to openings caused by various disturbance types. In fact, management regimes to maintain oak-dominated forests include clear-cutting and fire, both of which may promote exotic invasion. Moreover, eastern forests may be described as patches within an urban and agricultural matrix; i.e., the sink of invasion is embedded in its source. While there are over 180 potential oak-hickory forest invaders, we found the following species of most concern: Alliaria petiolata, Microstegium vimineum, Lonicera japonica, Celastrus orbiculatus, Rosa multiflora, L. maackii, L. tatarica, L. morrowii, and Ailanthus altissima. I compared each speciesí traits (physical, reproductive, and physiological), competitive ability, control measures, and known impacts on succession and ecosystem processes (based on the literature). I then related the distribution of these species (using herbarium records) to patterns of forest fragmentation and land use (using digital images). I used this information to predict future impacts of invasive plant species on oak-hickory forests.

Key words: invasive plants, oak-hickory forests, West Virginia