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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

Title: Medusahead Dispersal and Establishment in Sagebrush Steppe Plant Communities

Author
item Davies, Kirk

Submitted to: Rangeland Ecology and Management
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: October 9, 2007
Publication Date: January 1, 2008
Citation: Davies, K.W. 2008. Medusahead Dispersal and Establishment in Sagebrush Steppe Plant Communities. Rangeland Ecology and Management. 61(1):110-115.

Interpretive Summary: Medusahead is an invasive annual grass that reduces biodiversity and production of rangelands. To prevent medusahead invasion land managers need to know more about medusahead seed dispersal and establishment. Medusahead seed dispersal was measured using seed traps and medusahead establishment was evaluated by introducing medusahead at non-infested sites. Medusahead dispersed relatively short distances (' 2 m) from the invasion front. The establishment of medusahead decreased as large perennial grass density increased. The study suggests that containment barriers around medusahead infestations would only have to be a few meters wide to be effective and that promoting or maintaining large perennial grass can reduce the establishment success of medusahead. Land managers can use this information to contain medusahead infestations, increase the resistance of plant communities to medusahead invasion, and identify plant communities that are susceptible to medusahead invasion.

Technical Abstract: Medusahead (Taeniatherum caput-medusae (L.) Nevski) is an invasive annual grass that reduces biodiversity and production of rangelands. To prevent medusahead invasion land managers need to know more about its invasion process. Specifically, 1) the timing and spatial extent of medusahead seed dispersal and 2) the establishment rates and interactions with plant communities being invaded. The timing and distance medusahead seeds dispersed from invasion fronts were measured using seed traps along 23, 35-m transects. Medusahead establishment was evaluated by introducing medusahead at 1, 10, 100, 1000, and 10 000 seeds*m-2 at 12 sites. Most medusahead seeds dispersed less than 0.5 m from the invasion front (P < 0.01) and none were captured beyond 2 m. Medusahead seeds dispersed from the parent plants from early July to the end of October. More seeds were trapped in August than the other months (P < 0.01). Medusahead establishment increased with higher seed introduction rates (P < 0.01). Medusahead density was negatively correlated to tall tussock perennial grass density and positively correlated to annual grass density of the preexisting plant communities (P = 0.02 and 0.02, respectively). Medusahead cover was also negatively correlated with the tall tussock perennial grass density (P = 0.03). The results suggest that containment barriers around medusahead infestations would only have to be a few meters wide to be effective. This study also suggests promoting or maintaining tall tussock perennial grass in areas at risk of invasion can reduce the establishment success of medusahead. Tall tussock perennial grass and annual grass density may be useful in predicting susceptibility to medusahead invasion.

Last Modified: 10/24/2014
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