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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Effects of belowground resource use comlementarity on invasion of constructed grassland plant communities

  • Author(s): Brown, Cynthia S.
  • Rice, Kevin J.
  • et al.

At two field sites that differed in fertility, we investigated how species richness, functional group diversity, and species composition of constructed plant communities influenced invasion. Grassland communities were constructed to be either functionally diverse or functionally simple based on belowground resource use patterns of constituent species. Communities were also constructed with different numbers of species (two or five) to examine interactions between species richness, functional diversity and invasion resistance. We hypothesized that communities with more complementary belowground resource use (i.e., more species rich and more functionally diverse communities) would be less easily invaded than communities with greater degrees of belowground resource use overlap. Two contrasting invasive species were introduced: an early-season, shallow rooting annual grass, Bromus hordeaceus (soft chess), and a late-season, deep rooting annual forb, Centaurea solstitialis (yellow starthistle). Invader responses to species richness and functional diversity treatments differed between sites. In general, the more similar the patterns of belowground resource use between residents of the plant community and the invader, the poorer the invader’s performance. Complementarity or overlap of resource use among species in the constructed communities appeared to affect invader success less than complementarity or overlap of resource use between the invader and the species present in the community.

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