Declining survival across invasion history for Microstegium vimineum.
Many alien species become invasive because they lack coevolutionary history with the native community; for instance, they may lack specialized enemies. These evolutionary advantages may allow the invader to establish and persist when rare within a community and lead to its monodominance through positive frequency dependence, i.e. increasing per capita population growth rate with increasing frequency of conspecifics. However, this advantage could degrade through time due to evolutionary and ecological changes in the invasive and native plant and microbial communities. We investigated survival rates and individual biomass as proxies for per capita population growth rates for the invasive grass, Microstegium vimineum, across a gradient of conspecific frequencies (10-100% relative cover of M. vimineum) within 12 sites that varied in time since invasion. We expected M. vimineum frequency dependence to become more negative and its proxies for population growth at low conspecific frequency to decline across invasion history. We also explored the belowground fungal community associated with M. vimineum, since we hypothesized that changes in M. vimineum population dynamics may result from shifting microbial interactions over time. Microstegium vimineum frequency dependence changed from negative to neutral across invasion history and the shift was driven by a decline in survival at low frequency. Changes in M. vimineum root fungal community were associated with time since invasion. Our results do not support a shift in frequency dependence from positive to negative across invasion history. However, our results suggest M. vimineum populations may be less prone to persist at older invaded sites and thus more vulnerable to management intervention.