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Spread Dynamics of Perennial Pepperweed (Lepidium latifolium) in Two Seasonal Wetland Areas

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  20 January 2017

Mark J. Renz*
University of Wisconsin Madison, Department of Agronomy, Madison, WI 53706
Scott J. Steinmaus
Cal Poly San Luis Obispo, Biological Sciences Department, San Luis Obispo, CA 93407
David S. Gilmer
U.S. Geological Survey, Western Ecological Research Center, 6924 Tremont Road, Dixon, CA 95620
Joseph M. DiTomaso
University of California, Department of Plant Sciences, Davis, CA 95616
Corresponding author's E-mail:
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Perennial pepperweed is an invasive plant that is expanding rapidly in several plant communities in the western United States. In California, perennial pepperweed has aggressively invaded seasonal wetlands, resulting in degradation of habitat quality. We evaluated the rate and dynamics of population spread, assessed the effect of disturbance on spread, and determined the biotic and abiotic factors influencing the likelihood of invasion. The study was conducted at eight sites within two wetland regions of California. Results indicate that in undisturbed sites, spread was almost exclusively through vegetative expansion, and the average rate of spread was 0.85 m yr−1 from the leading edge. Spread in sites that were disked was more than three times greater than in undisturbed sites. While smaller infestations increased at a faster rate compared with larger populations, larger infestations accumulated more newly infested areas than smaller infestations from year to year. Stem density was consistently higher in the center of the infestations, with about 2.4 times more stems per square meter compared with the leading edge at the perimeter of the population. The invasion by perennial pepperweed was positively correlated with increased water availability but was negatively correlated with the cover of perennial and annual species. Thus, high cover of resident vegetation can have a suppressive effect on the rate of invasion, even in wetland ecosystems. On the basis of these results, we recommend that resident plant cover not be disturbed, especially in wet areas adjacent to areas currently infested with perennial pepperweed. For infested areas, management efforts should be prioritized to focus on controlling satellite populations as well as the leading edge of larger infestations first. This strategy could reduce the need for costly active restoration efforts by maximizing the probability of successful re-establishment of resident vegetation from the adjacent seedbank.

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