Invasive Species Compendium

Detailed coverage of invasive species threatening livelihoods and the environment worldwide

Abstract

Abiotic factors, not mycorrhizal associations, predict size and abundance of the invasive grass Microstegium vimineum.

Abstract

Both abiotic and biotic factors can influence distributions of invasive plant species, and it is important to understand how such factors contribute to invasion success in order to develop successful management strategies. Microstegium vimineum, known as stiltgrass, is an invasive annual grass in U.S. eastern deciduous forests that can outcompete native understory species, decrease diversity, and prevent the regeneration of native trees. Microstegium is also known to form associations with arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi (AMF), but research has yet to demonstrate whether this association has a role in Microstegium invasion and dominance over native vegetation. We conducted a field survey in invaded and uninvaded habitats across six sites near Louisville, KY, USA, to explore the relative importance of biotic versus abiotic factors in predicting Microstegium abundance and size. Canopy openness was the strongest predictor of Microstegium abundance, followed by soil moisture. Soil nitrogen was the strongest predictor of Microstegium tiller height. Surprisingly, AMF extraradical hyphal abundance and root colonization were not significant predictors of Microstegium abundance or size. In terms of abiotic factors, our results confirm previous studies that have demonstrated that Microstegium grows best in areas with high light and high soil moisture; however, our analysis provides further insight by assessing the relative importance of each of these factors for Microstegium invasion.