Exotic plant invasion alters chaparral ecosystem resistance and resilience pre- and post-wildfire.
Perturbations such as wildfire and exotic plant invasion have significant impacts on soils, and the extent to which invaded soils are resistant or resilient to these disturbances varies by ecosystem type. Replacement of shrublands by herbaceous exotics pre- and post-wildfire may drastically alter soil chemical and biological properties for an unknown duration. We assessed above and belowground resistance and resilience to exotic plant invasion both before and after a chaparral wildfire. We hypothesized that exotic plant species would change chemical characteristics of chaparral soils by altering litter and microbial inputs, and that controlling exotics and seeding native species would restore chemical characteristics to pre-invaded conditions. We additionally hypothesized that exotic plant species would slow succession above- and belowground, as well as recovery of post-wildfire chaparral structure and function. Plant species composition and soil nutrient pools and cycling rates were evaluated in mature and invaded chaparral pre- and post-wildfire. Exotic plant species were weeded and native species were seeded to assess impacts of exotic competition on native species recovery. Invasion did not impact all soil characteristics before fire, but increased soil C/N ratio, pH, and N cycling rates, and reduced NO3-N availability. After fire, invasives slowed succession above- and belowground. Removal of exotics and seeding natives facilitated succession and resulted in plant composition similar to uninvaded, post-wildfire chaparral. The chaparral ecosystem was not resistant to impacts of invasion as indicated by altered soil chemistry and C and N cycling rates; however, short-term restoration led to recovery of extractable nitrogen availability indicating resilience of chaparral soils. This suggests that the permanence of exotic plant species, once established, represents a greater ecological challenge than exotic plant impacts on soils.