Invasive Species Compendium

Detailed coverage of invasive species threatening livelihoods and the environment worldwide

Abstract

Impact of grasshoppers and an invasive grass on establishment and initial growth of restoration plant species.

Abstract

Exotic plant invasion can have dramatic impacts on native plants making restoration of native vegetation at invaded sites challenging. Though invasives may be superior competitors, it is possible their dominance could be enhanced by insect herbivores if native plants are preferred food sources. Insect herbivory can regulate plant populations, but little is known of its effects in restoration settings. There is a need to better understand relationships between insect herbivores and invasive plants with regard to their combined potential for impacting native plant establishment and restoration success. The objective of this study was to assess impacts of grasshopper herbivory and the invasive grass Bromus tectorum (cheatgrass) on mortality and growth of 17 native plant species used in restoration of critical sagebrush steppe ecosystems. Field and greenhouse experiments were conducted using moderate densities of a common, generalist pest grasshopper (Melanoplus bivittatus). Grasshoppers had stronger and more consistent impacts on native restoration plants in field and greenhouse studies than cheatgrass. After 6 weeks in the greenhouse, grasshoppers were associated with 36% mortality over all native restoration species compared to 2% when grasshoppers were absent. Herbivory was also associated with an approximately 50% decrease in native plant biomass. However, effects varied among species. Artemisia tridentata, Chrysothamnus viscidiflorus, and Coreopsis tinctoria were among the most negatively impacted, while Oenothera pallida, Pascopyrum smithii, and Leymus cinerus were unaffected. These findings suggest restoration species could be selected to more effectively establish and persist within cheatgrass infestations, particularly when grasshopper populations are forecasted to be high.