Invasive Species Compendium

Detailed coverage of invasive species threatening livelihoods and the environment worldwide

Abstract

Community-level consequences of invasion: impacts of exotic clonal plants on riparian vegetation.

Abstract

Biological invasions by exotic species are occurring at exceptional rates and spatial scales worldwide and are increasingly recognized as key forms of global environmental change. Despite this growing prominence, surprisingly few ecological studies have quantified the impacts of exotic taxa on the plant communities they invade, and this is especially evident in riparian ecosystems. Along the Russian River in northern California, we used both comparative and experimental studies to investigate the influence of two exotic clonal plant species - giant reed (Arundo donax) and blue periwinkle (Vinca major) - on the composition of riparian plant communities. Our results indicate that Arundo invasion was associated with significantly lower richness of native perennial plant species on stream banks and floodplains, whereas there was no relationship on gravel bars. Additional research showed that plots invaded by Arundo and Vinca, both individually and collectively, exhibited significantly lower native and exotic species richness and abundance of both established plants and seedlings than uninvaded plots. Finally, after 2 years, experimental reductions of Arundo biomass via cutting and herbicide resulted in significantly increased native plant species richness and abundances of both established plants and seedlings, while having no effects on other exotics. In summary, our results indicate that Arundo and Vinca have strongly negative effects on diverse components of a riparian plant community, which must be addressed via effective control and restoration efforts.