Patterns of post-fire invasion of semiarid shrub-steppe reveals a diversity of invasion niches within an exotic annual grass community.
Disturbances such as fire provide an opportunity for invasive plant species to exploit newly created niche space. Whether initial invaders facilitate, compete with, or do not affect later invaders is important to determine in communities affected by multiple invaders. This analysis focuses on the newer invaders Taeniatherum caput-medusae (medusahead) and Ventenata dubia (ventenata) in sagebrush-steppe communities previously invaded by Bromus tectorum (cheatgrass), during the first 5 years of recovery after wildfire. We combined probabilistic co-occurrence analysis and Getis-Ord spatial clustering analysis to assess relationships between different exotic annual grass species and native and introduced perennial bunchgrasses, then used Bayesian generalized linear models to determine if and how medusahead and ventenata differed in their environmental relationships and thus invasion niches. Medusahead presence was positively associated with both other exotic annual grasses, but ventenata presence was negatively associated with cheatgrass presence. Medusahead hotspots were more spatially similar to cheatgrass hotspots while ventenata hotspots were unique. Both invaders were negatively related to total perennial bunchgrass cover but disassociations between invaders and different perennial bunchgrasses were species-specific. Medusahead and ventenata occupied different niches; medusahead in low elevation, low precipitation areas and ventenata in higher elevation, higher precipitation areas. Despite seemingly similar ecology and growth requirements among these annual grasses and a tendency to be considered uniformly in both research and management, the species appeared to have different invasion niches.