Accelerated development in Johnsongrass seedlings (Sorghum halepense) suppresses the growth of native grasses through size-asymmetric competition.
ABSTRACT: Invasive plant species often dominate native species in competition, augmenting other potential advantages such as release from natural enemies. Resource pre-emption may be a particularly important mechanism for establishing dominance over competitors of the same functional type. We hypothesized that competitive success of an exotic grass against native grasses is mediated by establishing an early size advantage. We tested this prediction among four perennial C4 warm-season grasses: the exotic weed Johnsongrass (Sorghum halepense), big bluestem (Andropogon gerardii), little bluestem (Schizachyrium scoparius) and switchgrass (Panicum virgatum). We predicted that a) the competitive effect of Johnsongrass on target species would be proportional to their initial biomass difference, b) competitive effect and response would be negatively correlated and c) soil fertility would have little effect on competitive relationships. In a greenhouse, plants of the four species were grown from seed either alone or with one Johnsongrass neighbor at two fertilizer levels and periodically harvested. The first two hypotheses were supported: The seedling biomass of single plants at first harvest (50 days after seeding) ranked the same way as the competitive effect of Johnsongrass on target species: Johnsongrass < big bluestem < little bluestem/switchgrass, while Johnsongrass responded more strongly to competition from Johnsongrass than from native species. At final harvest, native plants growing with Johnsongrass attained between 2-5% of their single-plant non-root biomass, while Johnsongrass growing with native species attained 89% of single-plant non-root biomass. Fertilization enhanced Johnsongrass' competitive effects on native species, but added little to the already severe competitive suppression. Accelerated early growth of Johnsongrass seedlings relative to native seedlings appeared to enable subsequent resource pre-emption. Size-asymmetric competition and resource-pre-emption may be a critical mechanism by which exotic invasive species displace functionally similar native species and alter the functional dynamics of native communities.
Project description:The perennial grass species that are being developed as biomass feedstock crops harbor extensive genotypic diversity, but the effects of this diversity on biomass production are not well understood. We investigated the effects of genotypic diversity in switchgrass (Panicum virgatum) and big bluestem (Andropogon gerardii) on perennial biomass cropping systems in two experiments conducted over 2008-2014 at a 5.4-ha fertile field site in northeastern Illinois, USA. We varied levels of switchgrass and big bluestem genotypic diversity using various local and nonlocal cultivars - under low or high species diversity, with or without nitrogen inputs - and quantified establishment, biomass yield, and biomass composition. In one experiment ('agronomic trial'), we compared three switchgrass cultivars in monoculture to a switchgrass cultivar mixture and three different species mixtures, with or without N fertilization. In another experiment ('diversity gradient'), we varied diversity levels in switchgrass and big bluestem (1, 2, 4, or 6 cultivars per plot), with one or two species per plot. In both experiments, cultivar mixtures produced yields equivalent to or greater than the best cultivars. In the agronomic trial, the three switchgrass mixture showed the highest production overall, though not significantly different than best cultivar monoculture. In the diversity gradient, genotypic mixtures had one-third higher biomass production than the average monoculture, and none of the monocultures were significantly higher yielding than the average mixture. Year-to-year variation in yields was lowest in the three-cultivar switchgrass mixtures and Cave-In-Rock (the southern Illinois cultivar) and also reduced in the mixture of switchgrass and big bluestem relative to the species monocultures. The effects of genotypic diversity on biomass composition were modest relative to the differences among species and genotypes. Our findings suggest that local genotypes can be included in biomass cropping systems without compromising yields and that genotypic mixtures could help provide high, stable yields of high-quality biomass feedstocks.
Project description:The responses of native plants to competition with invasive plants depend mainly on the density of the invasive plants and on the ability of the native plants to compete for resources. In this study, we tested the influence of the invasive exotic Urochloa arrecta (Poaceae) on the early colonization of two native species (Pontederia cordata and Leersia hexandra) of aquatic macrophytes. Our hypotheses were (i) the competitive effects of U. arrecta on the native species P. cordata and L. hexandra are density-dependent and that (ii) these species respond differently to competitive interactions with the invasive species. We conducted the experiments in a greenhouse and in the field, in a tropical reservoir. The biomass of U. arrecta (ranging from 206.2 to 447.1 g) was manipulated in the greenhouse in trays with different densities. After the establishment of the invasive species, we added P. cordata and L. hexandra propagules to each tray. In the field, a propagule of P. cordata was planted in 36 sites with different densities of U. arrecta. The biomass and length of the natives and the biomass of the invasive species were measured in the greenhouse and in the field experiments. The biomass and length of the native plants decreased with increasing biomass of the exotic species in both experiments, showing that the competition between U. arrecta and native species depends on the density of the exotic species. The root:shoot ratio of L. hexandra decreased with increasing U. arrecta biomass, but the opposite occurred for P. cordata. These results indicate that native species exhibit different strategies of biomass allocation when interacting with U. arrecta. The strong competitive effects of U. arrecta and the different responses of the native species help to explain the reduced diversity of native macrophytes observed in sites colonized by U. arrecta. The results also suggest that in a scenario of dominance of exotic species, recolonization by native macrophytes is unlike to occur naturally and without human interventions that reduce the biomass of the exotic species.
Project description:The presence of native grasses in communities can suppress native forbs through competition and indirectly benefit these forbs by suppressing the invasion of highly competitive exotic species. We conducted a greenhouse experiment to examine the potential of direct and indirect interactions to influence the aboveground biomass of four native forb species in the presence of the native perennial grass Schizachyrium scoparium and exotic invasive Lespedeza cuneata. We examined patterns of growth for the invasive legume, the perennial grass, and four native species in four scenarios: 1) native species grown with the grass, 2) native species grown with the legume, 3) native species grown with both the grass and legume together, and 4) native species grown alone. Schizachyrium scoparium significantly decreased biomass of all forb species (p<0.05). In contrast, L. cuneata alone only significantly affected biomass of Asclepias tuberosa; L. cuneata increased the biomass of A. tuberosa only when the grass was present. When S. scoparium and L. cuneata were grown together, L. cuneata had significantly lower biomass (p = 0.007) and S. scoparium had significantly greater biomass (p = 0.002) than when each grew alone. These reciprocal effects suggest a potential pathway by which L. cuneata could alter forb diversity in grassland communities In this scenario, L. cuneata facilitates grass growth and competition with other natives. Our results emphasize the importance of monitoring interactions between exotic invasive plant species and dominant native species in grassland communities to understand pathways of plant community change.
Project description:Background:Studies of biological invasions focus on negative interactions between exotic and native biotas, emphasizing niche overlap between species and competitive exclusion. However, the effects of positive interactions and coexistence are poorly known. In this study we evaluate the importance of positive, negative, or random species associations in explaining the coexistence of native and exotic boring polychaetes inhabiting invertebrate hosts, on the southeastern Pacific coast of Chile. We assess three hypotheses to explain the observed patterns: positive species interactions, weak competitive interactions, and competitive intransitivity. Methodology:To assess the potential effect of competition between native and exotic polychaetes we analyzed patterns of co-occurrence of species pairs in northern and southern regions, using the metric of the probabilistic model. Since biotic interactions can affect not only native species, we also evaluated correlations between native and exotic polychaete abundance, using reduced major axis regression linear models. To assess the transitivity of competitive hierarchies we used metrics and analytical methods based on abundance matrices to estimate species competition and patch transition matrices. Results:On average 50% of the species pairs presented significant weak negative associations, all associated with the exotic species Polydora rickettsi; the remaining 50% had random associations, and none showed positive associations. However, the relationship of abundance between native and exotic boring polychates supports a tendency towards coexistence. At local and regional scales, we observed the presence of a transitive network competition structure, where the exotic boring polychaete, P. rickettsi was generally the dominant species. Conclusions:Our results support that native and exotic boring polychaete species coexist through weak competitive interactions. Nevertheless, the large number of random interactions observed indicates that species coexistence can be accounted for by stochastic processes, as proposed by neutral theory. Coexistence may be a frequent result of interactions between native and exotic species, although less apparent than competitive exclusion. Thus, the probabilistic point-of-view used here provides a statistical tool for evaluating coexistence as a result of exotic and native species' interactions, an idea which has been proposed in invasion ecology, but largely lacks empirical support and methodologies for detecting underlying mechanisms. Finally, we found evidence that P. rickettsi is a successful invader by being competitively dominant, but not excluding other species.
Project description:The possibility of increased invasiveness in cultivated varieties of native perennial species is a question of interest in biofuel risk assessment. Competitive success is a key factor in the fitness and invasive potential of perennial plants, and thus the large-scale release of high-yielding biomass cultivars warrants empirical comparisons with local conspecifics in the presence of competitors. We evaluated the performance of non-local cultivars and local wild biotypes of the tallgrass species Panicum virgatum L. (switchgrass) in competition experiments during two growing seasons in Ohio and Iowa. At each location, we measured growth and reproductive traits (plant height, tiller number, flowering time, aboveground biomass, and seed production) of four non-locally sourced cultivars and two locally collected wild biotypes. Plants were grown in common garden experiments under three types of competition, referred to as none, moderate (with Schizachyrium scoparium), and high (with Bromus inermis). In both states, the two "lowland" cultivars grew taller, flowered later, and produced between 2x and 7.5x more biomass and between 3x and 34x more seeds per plant than local wild biotypes, while the other two cultivars were comparable to wild biotypes in these traits. Competition did not affect relative differences among biotypes, with the exception of shoot number, which was more similar among biotypes under high competition. Insights into functional differences between cultivars and wild biotypes are crucial for developing biomass crops while mitigating the potential for invasiveness. Here, two of the four cultivars generally performed better than wild biotypes, indicating that these biotypes may pose more of a risk in terms of their ability to establish vigorous feral populations in new regions outside of their area of origin. Our results support an ongoing assessment of switchgrass cultivars developed for large-scale planting for biofuels.
Project description:Local, wild-collected seeds of native plants are recommended for use in ecological restoration to maintain patterns of adaptive variation. However, some environments are so drastically altered by exotic, invasive weeds that original environmental conditions may no longer exist. Under these circumstances, cultivated varieties selected for improved germination and vigor may have a competitive advantage at highly disturbed sites. This study investigated differences in early establishment and seedling performance between wild and cultivated seed sources of the native grass, Poa secunda, both with and without competition from the invasive exotic grass, Bromus tectorum. We measured seedling survival and above-ground biomass at two experimental sites in western Montana, and found that the source of seeds selected for restoration can influence establishment at the restoration site. Cultivars had an overall advantage when compared with local genotypes, supporting evidence of greater vigor among cultivated varieties of native species. This advantage, however, declined rapidly in the presence of B. tectorum and most accessions were not significantly different for growth and survival in competition plots. Only one cultivar had a consistent advantage despite a strong decline in its performance when competing with invasive plants. As a result, cultivated varieties did not meet expectations for greater establishment and persistence relative to local genotypes in the presence of invasive, exotic species. We recommend the use of representative local or regional wild seed sources in restoration to minimize commercial selection, and a mix of individual accessions (wild, or cultivated when necessary) in highly invaded settings to capture vigorous genotypes and increase the odds native plants will establish at restoration sites.
Project description:Introduced species threaten native biodiversity, but whether exotic species can competitively displace native species remains contested. Building on theory that predicts multi-species coexistence based on a competition-colonisation tradeoff, we derive a mechanistic basis by which human-mediated species invasions could cause extinctions through competitive displacement. In contrast to past invasions, humans principally introduce modern invaders, repeatedly and in large quantities, and in ways that can facilitate release from enemies and competitors. Associated increases in exotic species' propagule rain, survival and competitive ability could enable some introduced species to overcome the tradeoffs that constrain all other species. Using evidence from metacommunity models, we show how species introductions could disrupt species coexistence, generating extinction debts, especially when combined with other forms of anthropogenic environmental change. Even though competing species have typically coexisted following past biogeographic migrations, the multiplicity and interactive impacts of today's threats could change some exotic species into agents of extinction.
Project description:While the soil environment is generally acknowledged as playing a role in plant competition, the relative importance of soil resources and soil microbes in determining outcomes of competition between native and exotic plants has rarely been tested. Resilience of plant communities to invasion by exotic species may depend on the extent to which native and exotic plant performance are mediated by abiotic and biotic components of the soil. We used a greenhouse experiment to compare performance of two native prairie plant species and one exotic species, when grown in intraspecific competition and when each native was grown in interspecific competition with the exotic species, in the presence and absence of a native prairie soil community, and when nitrogen availability was elevated or was maintained at native prairie levels. We found that elevated nitrogen availability was beneficial to the exotic species and had no effect on or was detrimental to the native plant species, that the native microbial community was beneficial to the native plant species and either had no effect or was detrimental to the exotic species, and that intraspecific competition was stronger than interspecific competition for the exotic plant species and vice-versa for the natives. Our results demonstrate that soil nitrogen availability and the soil microbial community can mediate the strength of competition between native and exotic plant species. We found no evidence for native microbes enhancing the performance of the exotic plant species. Instead, loss of the native soil microbial community appears to reinforce the negative effects of elevated N on native plant communities and its benefits to exotic invasive species. Resilience of plant communities to invasion by exotic plant species is facilitated by the presence of an intact native soil microbial community and weakened by anthropogenic inputs of nitrogen.
Project description:Competition is a major determinant of plant community structure consisting of both species-specific and general interactions, either of which may influence competitive competency and plant abundance and size. In certain cases, competitive competency could arise from altered gene expression and plant function when an individual is confronted with new competitors. We explored competition at the molecular level by hybridizing transcripts from Centaurea maculosa (spotted knapweed), one of North America's most invasive exotic plant species, to an Arabidopsis microarray chip. Centaurea was grown in competition with Festuca idahoensis (Idaho fescue), a native grass species that generally has weak competitive effects against Centaurea; Gaillardia aristata (Indian blanketflower), a native herbaceous species that tends to be a much stronger competitor against Centaurea; or alone (control). The expression of some genes was found to be relatively uninfluenced by the type of plant neighbor, whereas other patterns of gene expression appeared to be more neighbor specific. To our knowledge, these results are the first to identify genes in an invasive plant that are induced or repressed by plant neighbors and provide a new avenue of insight into the molecular aspects of plant competitive ability. Keywords: treated vs.untreated Overall design: Files; chip 618 (12-7-05) and chip 623 (1-20-06) are replicates. One channel is root cDNA from Centaurea maculosa grown in isolation and the other channel is root cDNA from Centaurea maculosa grown with a strong competitor, Gaillardia aristata. For each chip, RNA extractions on unique biological samples were performed. Files; chip 720 (2-23-06) and chip 723 (3-17-06) are replicates. One channel is root cDNA from Centaurea maculosa grown in isolation and the other channel is root cDNA from Centaurea maculosa grown with a weak competitor, Festuca idahoensis. For each chip, RNA extractions on unique biological samples were performed.
Project description:The importance of phenotypic plasticity for successful invasion by exotic plant species has been well studied, but with contradictory and inconclusive results. However, many previous studies focused on comparisons of native and invasive species that co-occur in a single invaded region, and thus on species with potentially very different evolutionary histories. We took a different approach by comparing three closely related Centaurea species: the highly invasive C. solstitialis, and the noninvasive but exotic C. calcitrapa and C. sulphurea. These species have overlapping distributions both in their native range of Spain and in their non-native range of California. We collected seeds from 3 to 10 populations from each region and species and grew them in common garden greenhouse conditions to obtain an F1 generation in order to reduce maternal effects. Then, F1 seeds were grown subjected to simulated herbivory, variation in nutrient availability, and competition, to explore plasticity in the responses to these conditions. We found little variation in phenotypic plasticity among species and regions, but C. solstitialis plants from California produced more biomass in competition than their Spanish conspecifics. This species also had the highest relative growth rates when in competition and when grown under low nutrient availability. Noninvasive congeners produced intermediate or opposite patterns.