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The invasion of nonnative grasses threatens biodiversity and ecosystem function globally through competition with native plant species and increases to wildfire frequency and intensity. Management actions to reduce buffelgrass [Pennisetum ciliare (L.) Link], an invasive warm-season perennial bunchgrass, are widely implemented, with chemical and mechanical treatments extending over two decades within Saguaro National Park in the Sonoran Desert of North America. We assessed how the effectiveness of treatments to reduce P. ciliare cover spanning from 2011 to 2020 were influenced by stage of invasion, treatment type and intensity, and environmental conditions. An increase in treatment effectiveness was largely explained by high initial cover of P. ciliare, an indicator of a late invasion stage and associated with high treatment intensity. Treatments had potential to be effective in patches as small as 0.3-m2P. ciliare canopy per 400-m−2 area (<0.001% canopy cover) across treatment types and environmental gradients. Chemical treatments had higher or equal effectiveness compared with mechanical treatments, and greater reductions in P. ciliare were associated with shorter average years of treatment interruptions, or gaps, and to a lesser degree, total years of treatment. In many cases, P. ciliare was reduced with as little as 2 yr of treatment, but more than 3 average years of treatment gap could result in reduced treatment effectiveness. There was generally higher treatment effectiveness on shallow slopes, north- and east-facing aspects, and on higher elevations within one district of the park. Our findings highlight that resource-intensive treatments in all but the smallest patches of P. ciliare have largely been effective. Further opportunities for improvement include more frequent surveillance, limiting treatment gaps to ≤3 yr in areas of low P. ciliare cover, and comparison of treated with untreated areas.
Buffelgrass [Pennisetum ciliare (L.) Link] is an invasive C4 perennial bunchgrass that is a threat to biodiversity in aridlands in the Americas and Australia. Topography influences P. ciliare occurrence at large spatial scales, but further investigation into the relationship between local-scale topography and P. ciliare growth and reproduction would be beneficial. Further, density-dependent effects on P. ciliare growth and reproduction have been demonstrated in greenhouse experiments, but the extent to which density dependence influences P. ciliare in natural populations warrants further investigation. Here we present a study on the relationships between local-scale topography (aspect and slope gradient) and vegetation characteristics (shrub cover, P. ciliare cover, and P. ciliare density) and their interactions on individual P. ciliare plant size and reproduction. We measured slope gradient, aspect, shrub cover, P. ciliare cover, P. ciliare density, and the total number of live culms and reproductive culms of 10 P. ciliare plants in 33 4 by 4 m plots located in 11 transects at the Desert Laboratory at Tumamoc Hill, Tucson, AZ, USA. We modeled the relationships at the local scale of (1) P. ciliare cover and density with aspect and slope gradient and (2) P. ciliare size and reproduction with abiotic (slope gradient and aspect) and biotic (P. ciliare cover and density and native shrub and cacti cover) characteristics. Aspect and slope gradient were poor predictors of P. ciliare cover and density in already invaded sites at the scale of our plots. However, aspect had a significant relationship with P. ciliare plant size and reproduction. Pennisetum ciliare plants on south-facing aspects were larger and produced more reproductive culms than plants on other aspects. Further, we found no relationship between P. ciliare density and P. ciliare plant size and reproduction. Shrub cover was positively correlated with P. ciliare reproduction. South-facing aspects are likely most vulnerable to fast spread and infilling by new P. ciliare introductions.
Native Cirsium species play an important role in landscapes across North America. Hadroplontus litura (F.) (formerly Ceutorhynchus litura), the stem-mining weevil and biological control agent of Canada thistle [Cirsium arvense (L.) Scop.] can complete its life cycle on five Cirsium species native to the upper Midwest. Although these five Cirsium species are within the fundamental host range of H. litura, as determined by host-range tests, we wanted to explore whether phenological differences among Cirsium species help define the field ecological host range of H. litura. The objective of this study was to determine the phenology of Cirsium species native to the upper Midwest in relation to C. arvense and H. litura. Our goal was to explore whether shoots of native Cirsium species could escape H. litura shoot oviposition in spring due to delayed shoot emergence relative to C. arvense. Soil cumulative growing degree days (GDD) were a superior predictor of shoot emergence for perennial Cirsium species or initiation of leaves in biennial Cirsium species, with a 2.4 times larger effect on time to emergence relative to air GDD. All native Cirsium species initiated new leaves or shoots before C. arvense shoot emergence, even when native Cirsium species growth was delayed in the spring. In turn, C. arvense shoots emerged approximately 1 to 3 wk before female H. litura began to lay eggs. As such, all native Cirsium plants had shoots available for H. litura oviposition. There was no phenological separation between native Cirsium and C. arvense shoot emergence or initiation that would render native Cirsium species safe from H. litura attack. Based on the phenology of shoot emergence or initiation in the spring, all tested Cirsium species native to the upper Midwest would be within the ecological host range of H. litura.
Invasive species pose a threat to the livelihoods of many people living on rangelands of the western United States. Invasive species impact many ecosystem goods and services of the areas they invade and represent one of the largest causes of habitat degradation. On private ranches, economic analyses often find that conservation practices, such as invasive species control, are not economically viable, in contrast to what is found at the landscape scale. In northeast Wyoming, ventenata [Ventenata dubia (Leers) Coss.] is a relatively new invader in the Great Plains ecoregion that threatens forage production on ranches. Our objective was to explore the economic costs of V. dubia for two options available to a ranch operation: purchasing extra hay to offset losses in forage and controlling V. dubia with herbicide. Using a partial budget analysis, we compare these two options in three invasion scenarios using a range of forage utilization rates and discount rates. Controlling V. dubia with herbicide was a cheaper option compared with purchasing additional hay in many cases. In fact, at 50% utilization, it is cheaper to control V. dubia in all of our scenarios at all discount rates given our assumptions. For lower grazing utilization rates, it becomes cheaper to purchase hay in some cases other than in our worst-case invasion scenario. In these cases, coordination among ranchers is needed to effectively control V. dubia. There are many ranch-specific differences that may make a different option more feasible, and we did not explore options of reducing herd sizes. However, our results suggest that controlling V. dubia can be an economically viable option under certain circumstances. Additional assistance in the form of a cost-share program, and facilitation of coordination is needed to overcome the difficulties of private management of invasive species.
Invasive shrubs often present extremely difficult challenges for individual plant treatment approaches due to multiple basal stems with complex branching patterns. Basal bark and cut stump individual plant treatments have been the standard methods for managing large-statured shrubs, while hack and squirt has been disregarded as operationally too difficult. However, hack and squirt is a more discriminant treatment technique that may lead to a reduction in herbicide use. Here, we evaluated the speed, herbicide use, and performance of a reduced hack and squirt approach using single hacks per stem injected with 0.5 ml of either aminocyclopyrachlor (240 g L−1) or aminopyralid (240 g L−1) against conventional low-volume basal bark treatment with triclopyr ester (96 g L−1) and cut stump treatment with triclopyr amine (180 g L−1). The experiments were conducted on three subtropical shrub species: Eugenia uniflora, Lagerstroemia indica, and Schinus terebinthifolia. Across species, we found the reduced hack and squirt approach resulted in comparable treatment efficacy to basal bark and cut stump treatment, was faster than cut stump treatment, and used less herbicide and carrier than basal bark treatment. A single hack per stem is a significant shift for hack and squirt treatment, which typically employs a narrow or continuous spacing of hacks around the entire circumference of each stem. Future work should seek to clarify the applicability of this approach over a wide range of invasive shrubs.
Old World climbing fern [Lygodium microphyllum (Cav.) R. Br] is a smothering vine that has invaded thousands of hectares of wetlands in southern and central Florida, including the Everglades. For more than two decades, the standard management approach in natural areas has been to cut the vines at waist height, leaving climbing rachis to desiccate in the tree canopy (poodle cutting) and subsequently treat all rooted ground cover with a foliar application of a 3% v/v solution of glyphosate. While this is generally effective, there is increasing interest in providing additional control options and more selective treatments. Along with glyphosate, triclopyr is widely used in invasive plant management and may also provide increased selectivity when treating the ground cover. However, it has not been well tested on L. microphyllum, especially the more recently developed acid and choline formulations. In a series of field trials, we compared the acid, amine, and choline formulations of triclopyr against glyphosate as a positive reference and nontreated plots as a negative reference based on control of L. microphyllum at three wetland sites in southern Florida over the period of 2016 to 2020. Significant reductions in L. microphyllum cover were measured at 1 mo after treatment (MAT) and continued to the termination of the studies at 12 and 28 MAT. We found all three triclopyr formulations applied with a single-nozzle backpack sprayer at 5.4 g ae L−1 provided comparable activity to glyphosate applied at 14.4 g ae L−1. There were few differences in L. microphyllum efficacy among the three triclopyr formulations at each site. These results indicate that triclopyr is a suitable alternative to glyphosate for L. microphyllum control in wetland ecosystems. Future research should evaluate triclopyr efficacy on L. microphyllum in varied hydrologic conditions to better refine treatment prescriptions for wetlands.