Reductions in native grass biomass associated with drought facilitates the invasion of an exotic grass into a model grassland system

Anthony Manea*, Daniel R. Sloane, Michelle R. Leishman

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

19 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

The invasion success of exotic plant species is often dependent on resource availability. Aspects of climate change such as rising atmospheric CO2 concentration and extreme climatic events will directly and indirectly alter resource availability in ecological communities. Understanding how these climate change-associated changes in resource availability will interact with one another to influence the invasion success of exotic plant species is complex. The aim of the study was to assess the establishment success of an invasive exotic species in response to climate change-associated changes in resource availability (CO2 levels and soil water availability) as a result of extreme drought. We grew grassland mesocosms consisting of four co-occurring native grass species common to the Cumberland Plain Woodland of western Sydney, Australia, under ambient and elevated CO2 levels and subjected them to an extreme drought treatment. We then added seeds of a highly invasive C3 grass, Ehrharta erecta, and assessed its establishment success (biomass production and reproductive output). We found that reduced biomass production of the native grasses in response to the extreme drought treatment enhanced the establishment success of E. erecta by creating resource pulses in light and space. Surprisingly, CO2 level did not affect the establishment success of E. erecta. Our results suggest that the invasion risk of grasslands in the future may be coupled to soil water availability and the subsequent response of resident native vegetation therefore making it strongly context- dependent.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)175-183
Number of pages9
JournalOecologia
Volume181
Issue number1
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 1 May 2016

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