Response of the invasive Alliaria petiolata to extreme temperatures and drought.
Alliaria petiolata, a strict biennial in North America, can have an annual alternating high abundance of rosettes and flowering plants. We monitored changes in abundance of rosettes and flowering plants in permanent plots (2004-2014). Three times during our study, the alternating yearly cycle was not observed (2007-2008, 2008-2009, and 2013-2014). We concluded stochastic extreme climate events (ECEs), deviating from long-term climatic data norms (10th or 90th percentile), likely caused negative organism responses. Long-term data from a local NOAA station located 25 km from our study site included monthly data (1) total precipitation, (2) number of days with >0.13 cm precipitation, and (3) mean and minimum temperatures. September 2007 met the criteria for ECEs for all monthly variables. We first observed A. petiolata on our study site in 1988, and by the early 1990s, it was abundant. To determine whether September 2007 significantly differed from other September (1984-2014), we used six variables related to drought: (1) total precipitation, (2) number of days with precipitation, (3) number of contiguous days without precipitation, (4) mean monthly temperature, (5) mean maximum daily temperature, and (6) the number of days with temperatures >30°C. The first two variables likely increase plant stress as they decrease, whereas stress declines as the remaining variables decrease. We used the six variables to generate a principal component analysis (PCA) biplot. Axes 1 and 2 accounted for 74.3% of the variance. Record-breaking minimum temperatures (ECEs) for January (2009) and February-March (2014) likely reduced rosette abundance and disrupted reestablishment of alternating high abundance of rosettes and flowering plants. Our data suggest that a single ECE variable, minimum temperature, and multiple ECE variables related to drought likely had negative effects on A. petiolata.