Impacts of a non-native forb, Alyssum desertorum Stapf., and non-target effects of Indaziflam in the sagebrush steppe of Yellowstone National Park

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Montana State University - Bozeman, College of Agriculture


Non-native plants can reduce biodiversity and disrupt essential ecosystem services and functions. For most non-native plant species however, quantitative evidence of negative effects is lacking, as are fundamental demographic details; such information can inform whether and at what growth stage to implement control. Control strategies can also negatively impact non-target native plant communities; therefore, evaluating the tradeoffs of management and understanding the actual impacts of the invader is essential. I sought to understand the life history, and evaluate the competitiveness and impacts of the non-native annual forb, Alyssum desertorum Stapf., as well as non-target effects of management, across an elevation gradient in a cool, mountain sagebrush (Artemisia tridentata ssp. vaseyana (Rydb.) Beetle) steppe plant community. Seed viability, fecundity, overwintering success, and likelihood of reaching reproductive maturity of A. desertorum all declined as elevation increased; all life stage transition rates were high, suggesting that targeting seed production or fall germination would be the most effective means for control of this species. Replacement series experiments revealed that A. desertorum is a weak competitor with functionally similar species. Additionally, in the field, the presence of A. desertorum did not affect species richness nor Shannon's diversity aboveground or in the soil seedbank, and functionally similar native annual forbs were not displaced in invaded areas. I evaluated the efficacy and non-target effects of the pre-emergent herbicide, indaziflam, in diverse sagebrush steppe with localized infestations of A. desertorum across an elevational gradient. While indaziflam effectively controlled A. desertorum for two years, the richness and diversity of the surrounding community was reduced. Indaziflam inhibited recruitment of forbs, both in the field and in the seedbank. As indaziflam provides residual control of the soil seedbank for up to three years, my results suggest the future community composition may be altered, particularly native annual forb populations. Considering the weak competitive ability of A. desertorum, the species' minimal impacts to richness and diversity, and the negative effects of indaziflam to annual native forb species, I conclude that the non-target effects of indaziflam would outweigh any benefits to controlling A. desertorum in intact sagebrush steppe.




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