Invasive Species Compendium

Detailed coverage of invasive species threatening livelihoods and the environment worldwide

Abstract

Identifying thresholds in the impacts of an invasive groundcover on native vegetation.

Abstract

Impacts of invasive species are often difficult to quantify, meaning that many invaders are prioritised for management without robust, contextual evidence of impact. Most impact studies for invasive plants compare heavily invaded with non-invaded sites, revealing little about abundance-impact relationships. We examined effects of increasing cover and volume of the non-native herbaceous groundcover Tradescantia fluminensis on a temperate rainforest community of southern Australia. We hypothesised that there would be critical thresholds in T. fluminensis abundance, below which the native plant community would not be significantly impacted, but above which the community's condition would degrade markedly. We modelled the abundance-impact relationship from 83 plots that varied in T. fluminensis abundance and landscape context and found the responses of almost all native plant indicators to invasion were non-linear. Native species richness, abundance and diversity exhibited negative exponential relationships with increasing T. fluminensis volume, but negative threshold relationships with increasing T. fluminensis cover. In the latter case, all metrics were relatively stable until cover reached between 20 and 30%, after which each decreased linearly, with a 50% decline occurring at 75-80% invader cover. Few growth forms (notably shrubs and climbers) exhibited such thresholds, with most exhibiting negative exponential relationships. Tradescantia fluminensis biomass increased dramatically at > 80% cover, with few native species able to persist at such high levels of invasion. Landscape context had almost no influence on native communities, or the abundance-impact relationships between T. fluminensis and the plant community metrics. Our results suggest that the diversity of native rainforest community can be maintained where T. fluminensis is present at moderate-to-low cover levels.