Nonnative plant shifts functional groups of arthropods following drought

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Nonnative plants alter the composition of native plant communities, with concomitant effects on arthropods. However, plant invasions may not be the only disturbance affecting native communities, and multiple disturbances can have compounding effects. We assessed the effects of invasion and drought on plant and arthropod communities by comparing grasslands dominated by nonnative Old World bluestem grasses (OWBs, Dichanthium annulatum) to grasslands dominated by native plants during a period of decreasing drought severity (2011–2013). Native plant communities had more species of plants and arthropods (/m2) than areas dominated by OWBs during extreme drought, but richness was comparable as drought severity decreased. Abundance of arthropods was greater in native plant communities than in OWB communities during extreme drought, but OWB communities had more arthropods during moderate and non-drought conditions. We observed a shift in the arthropod community from one dominated by detritivores to one dominated by herbivores following plant invasion; the magnitude of this shift increased as drought severity decreased. Both plant communities were dominated by nonnative arthropods. A nonnative leafhopper (Balclutha rubrostriata) and native mites (Mochlozetidae) dominated OWB communities as drought severity decreased, and OWBs may serve as refugia for both taxa. Nonnative woodlice (Armadillidium vulgare) dominated native plant communities during extreme and non-drought conditions and abundance of this species may be associated with an increase in plant litter and available nutrients. Given the importance of arthropods for ecosystem services, incorporating arthropod data into conservation studies may demonstrate how changes in arthropod diversity alter ecosystem function where nonnative plants are dominant.



Detritivores, Grasslands, Herbivores, Old World bluestems, Plant invasion


Mitchell, Adam B. , and Andrea R. Litt. "Nonnative plant shifts functional groups of arthropods following drought." Biological Invasions 18, no. 5 (May 2016): 1351-1361. DOI:
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