Testing the effects of phylogenetic and functional diversity on invaders in an experimentally restored tallgrass prairie

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Adrienne R. Ernst, Mary-Claire Glasenhardt, Andrea T. Kramer, Daniel J. Larkin , Hannah E. Marx , Andrew L. Hipp

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Invasive species hinder restoration efforts, and their control can be a drain on limited resources. Due to the cost and damaging effects of traditional invasion control measures, the idea of designing species pools that are more resistant to invasion has been gaining traction. However, a focus solely on invasion resistance may lead to the selection of dominant native species that suppress other desired native species. Community ecology theory suggests that maximizing functional and phylogenetic diversity of native plant species should increase invasion resistance by minimizing empty niche space for invaders to exploit. If this theory holds true in restoration settings, it would offer a way to build more invasion-resistant communities that require less control effort while simultaneously increasing native diversity–a common goal of many restoration projects. However, this idea has not yet been tested in a restoration context. We investigated the effects of phylogenetic and functional diversity on invasion resistance in a tallgrass prairie restoration experiment composed of 15 species assemblages. Across all treatments, our experiment included 127 native species. The experimentally restored communities had varied levels of phylogenetic and functional diversity. Each of the 127 native species was also established into two monoculture plots. We introduced three invaders into each community and tracked their survival and growth over two growing seasons. We observed differences in invader survival, growth, and reproduction between the diversity treatments and between the 127 native species monocultures. Results will be synthesized with recommendations on how to build more invasion resistant native communities.

Resource Type:
Conference Presentation, SER2021

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