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Common practices for invasive species control and management include physical, chemical, and biological approaches. The first two approaches have clear limitations and may lead to unintended (negative) consequences, unless carefully planned and implemented. For example, physical removal rarely completely eradicates the targeted invasive species and can cause disturbances that facilitate new invasions by nonnative species from nearby habitats. Chemical treatments can harm native, and especially rare, species through unanticipated side effects. Biological methods may be classified as biocontrol and the ecological approach. Similar to physical and chemical methods, biocontrol also has limitations and sometimes leads to unintended consequences. Therefore, a relatively safer and more practical choice may be the ecological approach, which has two major components: (1) restoration of native species and (2) biomass manipulation of the restored community, such as selective grazing or prescribed burning (to achieve and maintain viable population sizes). Restoration requires well-planned and implemented planting designs that consider alpha-, beta-, and gamma-diversity and the abundance of native and invasive component species at local, landscape, and regional levels. Given the extensive destruction or degradation of natural habitats around the world, restoration could be most effective for enhancing ecosystem resilience and resistance to biotic invasions. At the same time, ecosystems in human-dominated landscapes, especially those newly restored, require close monitoring and careful intervention (e.g., through biomass manipulation), especially when successional trajectories are not moving as intended. Biomass management frequently uses prescribed burning, grazing, harvesting, and thinning to maintain overall ecosystem health and sustainability. Thus, the resulting optimal, balanced, and relatively stable ecological conditions could more effectively limit the spread and establishment of invasive species. Here we review the literature (especially within the last decade) on ecological approaches that involve biodiversity, biomass, and productivity, three key community/ecosystem variables that reciprocally influence one another. We focus on the common and most feasible ecological practices that can aid in resisting new invasions and/or suppressing the dominance of existing invasive species. We contend that, because of the strong influences from neighboring areas (i.e., as exotic species pools), local restoration and management efforts in the future need to consider the regional context and projected climate changes.
Diversified grasslands that contain native plant species are being recognized as important elements of agricultural landscapes and for production of biofuel feedstocks as well as a variety of other ecosystem services. Unfortunately, establishment of such grasslands is often difficult, unpredictable, and highly vulnerable to interference and invasion by weeds. Evidence suggests that soil-microbial “legacies” of invasive perennial species can inhibit growth of native grassland species. However, previous assessments of legacy effects of soil occupancy by invasive species that invade grasslands have focused on single invasive species and on responses to invasive soil occupancy in only a few species. In this study, we tested the hypothesis that legacy effects of invasive species differ qualitatively from those of native grassland species. In a glasshouse, three invasive and three native grassland perennials and a native perennial mixture were grown separately through three cycles of growth and soil conditioning in soils with and without arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi (AMF), after which we assessed seedling growth in these soils. Native species differed categorically from invasives in their response to soil conditioning by native or invasive species, but these differences depended on the presence of AMF. When AMF were present, native species largely had facilitative effects on invasive species, relative to effects of invasives on other invasives. Invasive species did not facilitate native growth; neutral effects were predominant, but strong soil-mediated inhibitory effects on certain native species occurred. Our results support the hypothesis that successful plant invaders create biological legacies in soil that inhibit native growth, but suggest also this mechanism of invasion will have nuanced effects on community dynamics, as some natives may be unaffected by such legacies. Such native species may be valuable as nurse plants that provide cost-effective restoration of soil conditions needed for efficient establishment of diversified grasslands.
Diversified grasslands that contain native plant species can produce biofuels, support sustainable grazing systems, and produce other ecosystem services. However, ecosystem service production can be disrupted by invasion of exotic perennial plants, and these plants can have soil-microbial “legacies” that may interfere with establishment and maintenance of diversified grasslands even after effective management of the invasive species. The nature of such legacies is not well understood, but may involve suppression of mutualisms between native species and soil microbes. In this study, we tested the hypotheses that legacy effects of invasive species change colonization rates, diversity, and composition of arbuscular-mycorrhizal fungi (AMF) associated with seedlings of co-occurring invasive and native grassland species. In a glasshouse, experimental soils were conditioned by cultivating three invasive grassland perennials, three native grassland perennials, and a native perennial mixture. Each was grown separately through three cycles of growth, after which we used T-RFLP analysis to characterize AMF associations of seedlings of six native perennial and six invasive perennial species grown in these soils. Legacy effects of soil conditioning by invasive species did not affect AMF richness in seedling roots, but did affect AMF colonization rates and the taxonomic composition of mycorrhizal associations in seedling roots. Moreover, native species were more heavily colonized by AMF and roots of native species had greater AMF richness (number of AMF operational taxonomic units per seedling) than did invasive species. The invasive species used to condition soil in this experiment have been shown to have legacy effects on biomass of native seedlings, reducing their growth in this and a previous similar experiment. Therefore, our results suggest that successful plant invaders can have legacies that affect soil-microbial associations of native plants and that these effects can inhibit growth of native plant species in invaded communities.
Exotic plants have the ability to modify soil seed banks in habitats they invade, but little is known about the legacy of invasion on seed banks once an exotic plant has successfully been controlled. Natural areas previously invaded by leafy spurge in the northern Great Plains typically have one of two fates following its removal: a return of native plants, or a secondary invasion of other exotic plants. It is unknown, however, if this difference in plant communities following leafy spurge control is due to seed bank differences. To answer this question, we monitored seed banks and standing vegetation for 2 yr in mixed-grass prairies that were previously invaded by leafy spurge but controlled within 5 yr of our study. We found that native plant seed banks were largely intact in areas previously invaded by leafy spurge, regardless of the current living plant community, and leafy spurge invasion history had a larger impact on cover and diversity of the vegetation than on the seed banks. Differences in plant communities following leafy spurge control do not appear to be related to the seed banks, and soil conditions may be more important in determining trajectories of these postinvasion communities.
The degree to which invasive species drive or respond to environmental change has important implications for conservation and invasion management. Often characterized as a driver of change in North American woodlands, the invasive herb garlic mustard may instead respond to declines in native plant cover and diversity. We tested effects of native herb cover, richness, and light availability on garlic mustard invasion in a Minnesota oak woodland. We planted 50 garlic mustard seeds into plots previously planted with 0 to 10 native herb species. We measured garlic mustard seedling establishment, survival to rosette and adult stages, and average (per plant) and total (per plot) biomass and silique production. With the use of structural equation models, we analyzed direct, indirect, and net effects of native cover, richness, and light on successive garlic mustard life stages. Native plant cover had a significant negative effect on all life stages. Species richness had a significant positive effect on native cover, resulting in indirect negative effects on all garlic mustard stages, and net negative effects on adult numbers, total biomass, and silique production. Light had a strong negative effect on garlic mustard seedling establishment and a positive effect on native herb cover, resulting in significant negative net effects on garlic mustard rosette and adult numbers. However, light's net effect on total garlic mustard biomass and silique production was positive; reproductive output was high even in low-light/high-cover conditions. Combined effects of cover, richness, and light suggest that native herbs provide biotic resistance to invasion by responding to increased light availability and suppressing garlic mustard responses, although this resistance may be overwhelmed by high propagule pressure. Garlic mustard invasion may occur, in part, in response to native plant decline. Restoring native herbs and controlling garlic mustard seed production may effectively reduce garlic mustard spread and restore woodland diversity.
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