Plant networks are more connected by invasive brome and native shrub facilitation in Central California drylands

C. J. Lortie, Charlotte Brown, Stephanie Haas-Desmarais, Jacob Lucero, Ragan Callaway, Jenna Braun, Alessandro Filazzola

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Dominant vegetation in many ecosystems is an integral component of structure and habitat. In many drylands, native shrubs function as foundation species that benefit other plants and animals. However, invasive exotic plant species can comprise a significant proportion of the vegetation. In Central California drylands, the facilitative shrub Ephedra californica and the invasive Bromus rubens are widely dispersed and common. Using comprehensive survey data structured by shrub and open gaps for the region, we compared network structure with and without this native shrub canopy and with and without the invasive brome. The presence of the invasive brome profoundly shifted the network measure of centrality in the microsites structured by a shrub canopy (centrality scores increased from 4.3 under shrubs without brome to 6.3, i.e. a relative increase of 42%). This strongly suggests that plant species such as brome can undermine the positive and stabilizing effects of native foundation plant species provided by shrubs in drylands by changing the frequency that the remaining species connect to one another. The net proportion of positive and negative associations was consistent across all microsites (approximately 50% with a total of 14% non-random co-occurrences on average) suggesting that these plant-plant networks are rewired but not more negative. Maintaining resilience in biodiversity thus needs to capitalize on protecting native shrubs whilst also controlling invasive grass species particularly when associated with shrubs.

Original languageEnglish
Article number8958
Pages (from-to)8958
JournalScientific Reports
Issue number1
StatePublished - Apr 18 2024


  • Annual plant
  • Community ecology
  • Facilitation
  • Foundation species
  • Invasion
  • Network analyses
  • Resilience
  • Shrubs
  • Plants
  • California
  • Biodiversity
  • Bromus
  • Ecosystem
  • Introduced Species


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