An unfortunate alliance: Native shrubs increase the abundance, performance, and apparent impacts of Bromus tectorum across a regional aridity gradient

Jacob E. Lucero, Ragan M. Callaway, Akasha M. Faist, Christopher J. Lortie

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Interspecific facilitation contributes to the assembly of desert plant communities. However, we know little of how desert communities invaded by exotic species respond to facilitation along regional-scale aridity gradients. These measures are essential for predicting how desert plant communities might respond to concomitant plant invasion and environmental change. Here, we evaluated the potential for Bromus tectorum (a dominant invasive plant species) and the broader herbaceous plant community to form positive associations with native shrubs along a substantial aridity gradient across the Great Basin, Mojave, and San Joaquin Deserts in North America. Along this gradient, we sampled metrics of abundance and performance for B. tectorum, all native herbaceous species combined, all exotic herbaceous species combined, and the total herbaceous community using 180 pairs of shrub and open microsites. Across the gradient, B. tectorum formed strong positive associations with native shrubs, achieving 1.6–2.2 times greater abundance, biomass, and reproductive output under native shrubs than away from shrubs, regardless of relative aridity. In contrast, the broader herbaceous community was not positively associated with native shrubs. Interestingly, increasing B. tectorum abundance corresponded to decreasing native abundance, native species richness, exotic species richness, and total species richness under but not away from shrubs. Taken together, these findings suggest that native shrubs have considerable potential to directly (by increasing abundance and performance) and indirectly (by increasing competitive effects on neighbors) facilitate B. tectorum invasion across a large portion of the non-native range.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)41-53
Number of pages13
JournalBasic and Applied Ecology
Volume57
DOIs
StatePublished - Dec 2021

Keywords

  • Bromus tectorum
  • Deserts
  • Drylands
  • Facilitated invasion
  • Facilitation
  • Invasive species
  • Native turncoats
  • Positive interactions
  • Shrubs
  • Stress-gradient hypothesis

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