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Meta-Analysis of Exotic Forages as Invasive Plants in Complex Multi-Functioning Landscapes

  • John Derek Scasta (a1), David M. Engle (a2), Samuel D. Fuhlendorf (a2), Daren D. Redfearn (a3) and Terrance G. Bidwell (a2)...

Abstract

Introducing exotic forages in the attempt to enhance livestock and wildlife forage has been practiced widely for over a century. These forage species are selected for traits conferring persistence under stress, potentially yielding invaders that transform native plant communities. Using standardized systematic review guidelines and meta-analytical techniques we quantified effects of exotic forage invasion on change of native plant community structure, and compared the magnitude and direction of change across exotic forage species, plant functional groups, and structure of plant communities. Our study of 13 exotic forage species in North America (six C4 grasses, three C3 grasses, and four legumes) yielded 35 papers with quantitative data from 64 case studies. Nine of the 13 species met our inclusion criteria for meta-analysis. The overall effect of exotic forage invasion on native plant communities was negative (Ē̄ = −0.74; 95% confidence interval [CI]: −0.29 to −0.25). The effect size was most negative for two C4 grasses, Lehmann lovegrass and Old World bluestems. A negative effect was also expressed by C3 and C4 grass functional groups, and these effects were stronger than for legumes. Effect size differed among measures of plant community structure, with the greatest negative effect on native plant biomass and the least negative effect on species evenness. Weighted fail-safe numbers indicated publication bias was not an issue. Exotic forage species are important for agricultural production but may threaten complex multi-functioning landscapes and should be considered as a subset of potentially invasive exotic species. Characteristics making exotic forages different from other exotic plants hinge on pathways of selection and dispersion: selection is based on persistence mechanisms similar to characteristics of invasive plants; dispersion by humans is intentional across expansive geographic regions. Exotic forages present a complex socio-ecological problem exacerbated by disconnected scientific disciplines, competing interests between policy and science, and organized efforts to increase food production.

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Copyright

Corresponding author

Corresponding author's E-mail: jscasta@uwyo.edu

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Keywords

Meta-Analysis of Exotic Forages as Invasive Plants in Complex Multi-Functioning Landscapes

  • John Derek Scasta (a1), David M. Engle (a2), Samuel D. Fuhlendorf (a2), Daren D. Redfearn (a3) and Terrance G. Bidwell (a2)...

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