Effects of exotic annual grass litter and local environmental gradients on annual plant community structure

Wainwright, Claire E., Dwyer, John M. and Mayfield, Margaret M. (2017) Effects of exotic annual grass litter and local environmental gradients on annual plant community structure. Biological Invasions, 19 2: 479-491. doi:10.1007/s10530-016-1303-2

Author Wainwright, Claire E.
Dwyer, John M.
Mayfield, Margaret M.
Title Effects of exotic annual grass litter and local environmental gradients on annual plant community structure
Journal name Biological Invasions   Check publisher's open access policy
ISSN 1573-1464
Publication date 2017-02-01
Year available 2016
Sub-type Article (original research)
DOI 10.1007/s10530-016-1303-2
Open Access Status Not yet assessed
Volume 19
Issue 2
Start page 479
End page 491
Total pages 13
Place of publication Dordrecht, Netherlands
Publisher Springer Netherlands
Language eng
Subject 1105 Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
2303 Ecology
Abstract Exotic annual grasses have been introduced into many semi-arid ecosystems worldwide, often to the detriment of native plant communities. The accumulation of litter from these grasses (i.e. residual dry biomass) has been demonstrated to negatively impact native plant communities and promote positive feedbacks to exotic grass persistence. More targeted experiments are needed, however, to determine the relative impact of exotic grass litter on plant community structure across local environmental gradients. We experimentally added exotic grass litter to annual forb-dominated open woodland communities positioned along natural canopy cover gradients in southwest Western Australia. These communities are an important component of this region's plant biodiversity hotspot and are documented to be under threat from exotic annual grasses. After a one-year treatment period, we measured the effects of exotic grass litter, soil properties, and canopy cover on native and exotic species richness and abundance, as well as common species' biomass and abundances. Plant community structure was more strongly influenced by soil properties and canopy cover than by grass litter. Total plant abundances per plot, however, were significantly lower in litter addition plots than control plots, a trend driven by native species. Exotic grass litter was also associated with lower abundances of one very common native species: Waitzia acuminata. Our results suggest that exotic grass litter limits the establishment of some native species in this system. Over multiple years, these subtle impacts may contribute substantially to the successful advancement of exotic species into this system, particularly in certain microenvironments.
Keyword Annual plants
Community structure
Exotic grass
Semi-arid ecosystem
Q-Index Code C1
Q-Index Status Provisional Code
Grant ID DP1094413
Institutional Status UQ

Document type: Journal Article
Sub-type: Article (original research)
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