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Invasive-dominated grasslands in Hawaiʻi are resilient to disturbance

March 19, 2024

Non-native-dominated landscapes may arise from invasion by competitive plant species, disturbance and invasion of early-colonizing species, or some combination of these. Without knowing site history, however, it is difficult to predict how native or non-native communities will reassemble after disturbance events. Given increasing disturbance levels across anthropogenically impacted landscapes, predictive understanding of these patterns is important. We asked how disturbance affected community assembly in six invaded habitat types common in dryland, grazed landscapes on Island of Hawai‘i. We mechanically disturbed 100 m2 plots in six vegetation types dominated by one of four invasive perennial grasses (Cenchrus ciliaris, Cenchrus clandestinus, Cenchrus setaceus, or Melinis repens), a native shrub (Dodonaea viscosa), or a native perennial bunchgrass (Eragrostis atropioides). We censused vegetation before disturbance and monitored woody plant colonization and herbaceous cover for 21 months following the disturbance, categorizing species as competitors, colonizers, or a combination, based on recovery patterns. In addition, we planted individuals of the native shrub and bunchgrass and monitored survival to overcome dispersal limitation of native species when exploring these patterns. We found that the dominant vegetation types showed variation in post-disturbance syndrome, and that the variation in colonizer versus competitor syndrome occurred both between species, but also within species among different vegetation types. Although there were flushes of native shrub seedlings, these did not survive to 21 months within invaded habitats, probably due to regrowth by competitive invasive grasses. Similarly, survival of planted native individuals was related to the rate of regrowth by dominant species. Regardless of colonization/competitor syndrome, however, all dominant vegetation types were relatively resilient to change. Our results highlight that the altered post-agricultural, invaded grassland landscapes in Hawaiʻi are stable states. More generally, they point to the importance of resident communities and their effects on species interactions and seed availability in shaping plant community response to disturbance.

Publication Year 2024
Title Invasive-dominated grasslands in Hawaiʻi are resilient to disturbance
DOI 10.1002/ece3.10948
Authors Stephanie G. Yelenik, Eli T. Rose, Susan Cordell
Publication Type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Series Title Ecology and Evolution
Index ID 70253020
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Pacific Island Ecosystems Research Center