The putative niche requirements and landscape dynamics of Microstegium vimineum: an invasive Asian grass.
The theoretical foundations of population and community ecology stress the importance of identifying crucial niche requirements and life history stages of invasive species and, in doing so, give insight into research and management. We focus on Microstegium vimineum, an invasive grass which is causing marked changes in the structure and function of US forests. We describe M. vimineum's life history and habitat characteristics, infer its niche requirements and synthesize this information in the context of population dynamics and management. Based on the results synthesized here, M. vimineum's crucial niche requirements appear to be light (reproductive output), soil moisture (reproductive output, seedling recruitment) and aboveground coverage by leaf-litter and competing species (seedling recruitment and survival). These data suggest a source-sink dynamic might allow M. vimineum to disperse and thrive along sunny, and sometimes wet, edge habitats and, in turn, these populations might act as source populations for adjacent shady forest habitats. By evaluating M. vimineum in the context of its stage-specific requirements, we highlight potential weaknesses in its life history that provide strategies for effective management.