Consequences of Ventenata dubia 30 years postinvasion to bunchgrass communities in the Pacific Northwest.
Ventenata [Ventenata dubia (Leers) Coss.], an invasive winter annual grass, negatively impacts grassland community composition and function in the Pacific Northwest. Ventenata dubia established in Palouse prairie (PP) and canyon grasslands (CG) of northern Idaho/eastern Washington in the mid-1980s to early 1990s. Understanding and comparing patterns of invasion can elucidate future trends as its range expands. We performed surveys in PP (2012 and 2013) and CG (2018) to assess V. dubia abundance. Specifically, we correlated species richness, Shannon diversity, rank abundance, and indicator species with no, low (< 12.5%), and high (>12.5%) V. dubia cover. We used nonmetric multidimensional scaling analysis (NMDS) to visualize species similarities and associations with abiotic variables. In both ecoregions, V. dubia was very common, appearing in nearly 60% of 450 plots. When present, V. dubia cover averaged 26% (±2.3 SE) in PP and 19% (±1.8 SE) in CG. Indigenous plant species richness and diversity were lowest in plots with high V. dubia cover. In CG, this relationship held for nonindigenous species; in PP, nonindigenous plant richness and diversity were higher with high V. dubia cover. Ventenata dubia and other winter annual grasses (Bromus spp., medusahead [Taeniatherum caput-medusae (L.) Nevski]) were moderately associated according to the NMDS analysis. Indicator species analysis showed V. dubia was positively associated with nonindigenous winter annual grasses and negatively associated with indigenous low shrub species. Abiotic factors that explained V. dubia abundance included shallow soils and a south to west aspect. Overall, these findings indicate V. dubia can successfully invade both dry and relatively wet plant communities and is more abundant than other invasive annual grasses. We suggest these findings foreshadow what will happen in sagebrush steppe and Great Plains grasslands, regions where V. dubia recently became established.