An invasive grass shows colonization advantages over native grasses under conditions of low resource availability

Han, Yi, Buckley, Yvonne M., & Firn, Jennifer (2012) An invasive grass shows colonization advantages over native grasses under conditions of low resource availability. Plant Ecology, 213(7), pp. 1117-1130.

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Increased or fluctuating resources may facilitate opportunities for invasive exotic plants to dominate. This hypothesis does not, however, explain how invasive species succeed in regions characterized by low resource conditions or how these species persist in the lulls between high resource periods. We compare the growth of three co-occurring C4 perennial bunchgrasses under low resource conditions: an exotic grass, Eragrostis curvula (African lovegrass) and two native grasses, Themeda triandra and Eragrostis sororia. We grew each species over 12 weeks under low nutrients and three low water regimes differentiated by timing: continuous, pulsed, and mixed treatments (switched from continuous to pulsed and back to continuous). Over time, we measured germination rates, time to germination (first and second generations), height, root biomass, vegetative biomass, and reproductive biomass. Contrary to our expectations that the pulsed watering regime would favor the invader, water-supply treatments had little significant effect on plant growth. We did find inherent advantages in a suite of early colonization traits that likely favor African lovegrass over the natives including faster germination speed, earlier flowering times, faster growth rates and from 2 weeks onward it was taller. African lovegrass also showed similar growth allocation strategies to the native grasses in terms of biomass levels belowground, but produced more vegetative biomass than kangaroo grass. Overall our results suggest that even under low resource conditions invasive plant species like African lovegrass can grow similarly to native grasses, and for some key colonization traits, like germination rate, perform better than natives.

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ID Code: 52923
Item Type: Journal Article
Refereed: Yes
Keywords: Plasticity, Colonization, Invasive, Growth traits, Biomass
DOI: 10.1007/s11258-012-0070-0
ISSN: 1573-5052
Subjects: Australian and New Zealand Standard Research Classification > BIOLOGICAL SCIENCES (060000)
Divisions: Current > Schools > School of Earth, Environmental & Biological Sciences
Current > QUT Faculties and Divisions > Science & Engineering Faculty
Deposited On: 06 Aug 2012 23:05
Last Modified: 12 Jun 2013 15:05

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