Invasion is contingent on species assemblage and invasive species identity in experimental rehabilitation plots.
Ecological studies often suggest that diverse communities are most resistant to invasion by exotic plants, but relatively few local species may be available to a rehabilitation practitioner. We examine the ability of monocultures and diverse assemblages to resist invasion by an exotic annual grass (cheatgrass) and an exotic biennial forb (dyer's woad) in experimental rehabilitation plots. We constructed seven assemblages that included three monocultures of grass, forb, or shrub; three four-species mixtures of grasses, forbs, or shrubs; and a three-species mixture of one species from each growth form in an experimental field setting to test resistance to invasion. Assemblages were seeded with cheatgrass and dyer's woad for two consecutive years and quantified as biomass and density of individuals from each exotic species. Soil NO3- and leaf-area index were examined as predictors of invasive plant abundance. Cheatgrass invasion was greatest in forb and shrub assemblages, and least in mixed grass or grass monoculture; dyer's woad invasion was greatest into mixed grass or grass monoculture, but least into monoculture or mixed-species assemblages composed of forbs or shrubs. The community composed of grasses, forbs, and shrubs suppressed invasion by both species. Consequently, assemblages were most resistant to invasion by species of the same growth form. Moreover, these monocultures and mixtures were generally similar in conferring resistance to invasion, but a monoculture of big sagebrush was more resistant than a mixture of shrubs. Soil NO3- was correlated with invasion by cheatgrass, whereas LAI was correlated with invasion by dyer's woad, suggesting these species were more limited by belowground and aboveground resources, respectively. Overall, increasing diversity with limited species did not necessarily enhance resistance to invasion.