Competition between cheatgrass and bluebunch wheatgrass is altered by temperature, resource availability, and atmospheric CO2 concentration
Larson, Christian D.
Lehnhoff, Erik A.
Rew, Lisa J.
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Global change drivers (elevated atmospheric CO2, rising surface temperatures, and changes in resource availability) have significant consequences for global plant communities. In the northern sagebrush steppe of North America, the invasive annual grass Bromus tectorum (cheatgrass) is expected to benefit from projected warmer and drier conditions, as well as increased CO2 and nutrient availability. In growth chambers, we addressed this expectation using two replacement series experiments designed to test competition between B. tectorum and the native perennial bunchgrass Pseudoroegneria spicata. In the first experiment, we tested the effects of elevated temperature, decreased water and increased nutrient availability, on competition between the two species. In the second, we tested the effects of elevated atmospheric CO2 and decreased water availability on the competitive dynamic. In both experiments, under all conditions, P. spicata suppressed B. tectorum, though, in experiment one, warmer and drier conditions and elevated nutrient availability increased B. tectorum’s competitiveness. In experiment two, when grown in monoculture, both species responded positively to elevated CO2. However, when grown in competition, elevated CO2 increased P. spicata’s suppressive effect, and the combination of dry soil conditions and elevated CO2 enhanced this effect. Our findings demonstrate that B. tectorum competitiveness with P. spicata responds differently to global change drivers; thus, future conditions are unlikely to facilitate B. tectorum invasion into established P. spicata communities of the northern sagebrush steppe. However, disturbance (e.g., fire) to these communities, and the associated increase in soil nutrients, elevates the risk of B. tectorum invasion.
Larson, C. D., Lehnhoff, E. A., Noffsinger, C., & Rew, L. J. (2017). Competition between cheatgrass and bluebunch wheatgrass is altered by temperature, resource availability, and atmospheric CO2 concentration. Oecologia, 186(3), 855–868. doi:10.1007/s00442-017-4046-6
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