Submitted to: Ecological Society of America Abstracts
Publication Type: Abstract Only
Publication Acceptance Date: June 1, 2012
Publication Date: August 8, 2012
Citation: Davies, K.W. 2012. Biodiversity and native plant abundance decline with increasing abundance of exotic annual grass. Ecological Society of America Abstracts. Paper No. PS 42-18. Technical Abstract: Exotic plants are generally considered a serious problem in wildlands around the world. However, some argue that the impacts of exotic plants have been exaggerated and that biodiversity and other important plant community characteristics are commonly improved with invasion. Thus, disagreement exists among ecologists as to the relationship of exotic plants with biodiversity and native plant communities. A better understanding of the relationships between exotic plants and native plant communities is needed to improve funding allocation and legislation regarding exotic plants, and justify and prioritize invasion management. To evaluate these relationships, 65 shrub-bunchgrass plant communities with varying densities of an exotic annual grass, Taeniatherum caput-medusae (L.) Nevski (medusahead), were sampled across 160,000 ha in southeastern Oregon, United States. Environmental factors were generally not correlated with plant community characteristics when exotic annual grass density was included in models. Plant diversity and species richness were correlated negatively with exotic annual grass density. Exotic annual grass density explained 62% of the variation in plant diversity. All native plant functional groups, except annual forbs, exhibited a negative relationship with T. caput-medusae. The near, or in some situations complete, elimination of several native plant functional groups and substantial decline in plant species diversity at high T. caput-medusae densities suggest that the negative impacts of invasion on native plant communities can be severe. Exotic annual grass invasion appears to become a driver of ecosystem functions and processes as native vegetation is excluded and biodiversity decreases. The strength of the relationships between plant community characteristics and T. caput-medusae density suggests that some exotic plants are a major force of change in plant communities and subsequently threaten ecosystem functions and processes.