Invasive Species Compendium

Detailed coverage of invasive species threatening livelihoods and the environment worldwide

Abstract

Community-level effects of herbicide-based restoration treatments: structural benefits but at what cost?

Abstract

Invasive species alter ecosystem structure, impact biodiversity, and have significant economic costs. In Oregon's Willamette Valley, invasive grasses Arrhenatherum elatius and Schedonorus arundinaceus alter the dynamics of the phenologically paired interaction between an endangered butterfly, Icaricia icarioides fenderi (Fender's blue), and its larval host plant, Lupinus oreganus (Kincaid's lupine). To test methods to restore this interaction, we established a 3-year experiment where a post-emergent grass-specific herbicide, fluazifop-p-butyl, was applied to Fender's blue habitat. Plant community data were recorded throughout the growing season at eight paired plots for 1 year prior to treatment and 3 years during treatment. We asked whether annual application of herbicide could reduce the height of invasive grasses to levels at or beneath the height of Kincaid's lupine racemes throughout the Fender's blue flight season. We hypothesized that native forb species, which are critical nectar sources for Fender's blue, would increase in cover and frequency following the release from competitive dominance of invasive grasses. Grass-specific herbicide reduced grass height during the flight season of Fender's blue, but with several costs. We found no change in nectar and a suppression of lupine growth in plots in response to experimental herbicide treatment. Each study site had multiple secondary invaders; the long-term impact of these new invaders is unknown. We suggest that herbicide application results in a net negative effect in the context of Fender's blue habitat restoration. That is, the costs to primary resources for Fender's blue and the influx of secondary invaders may be as problematic as the primary invasion by non-native grasses.