Invasive Species Compendium

Detailed coverage of invasive species threatening livelihoods and the environment worldwide

Abstract

Niche opportunities for invasive annual plants in dryland ecosystems are controlled by disturbance, trophic interactions, and rainfall.

Abstract

Resource availability and biotic interactions control opportunities for the establishment and expansion of invasive species. Studies on biotic resistance to plant invasions have typically focused on competition and occasionally on herbivory, while resource-oriented studies have focused on water or nutrient pulses. Through synthesizing these approaches, we identify conditions that create invasion opportunities. In a nested fully factorial experiment, we examined how chronic alterations in water availability and rodent density influenced the density of invasive species in both the Mojave Desert and the Great Basin Desert after fire. We used structural equation modeling to examine the direct and mediated effects controlling the density of invasives in both deserts. In the first 2 years after our controlled burn in the Great Basin, we observed that fire had a direct effect on increasing the invasive forb Halogeton glomeratus as well as a mediated effect through reducing rodent densities and herbivory. 4 years after the burn, the invasive annual grass Bromus tectorum was suppressing Halogeton glomeratus in mammal exclusion plots. There was a clear transition from years where invasives were controlled by disturbance and trophic interactions to years were resource availability and competition controlled invasive density. Similarly, in the Mojave Desert we observed a strong early influence of trophic processes on invasives, with Schismus arabicus benefitted by rodents and Bromus rubens negatively influenced by rodents. In the Mojave Desert, post-fire conditions became less important in controlling the abundance of invasives over time, while Bromus rubens was consistently benefitted by increases in fall rainfall.