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Effects of Soil Resources on Plant Invasion and Community Structure in Californian Serpentine Grassland

Laura Foster Huenneke, Steven P. Hamburg, Roger Koide, Harold A. Mooney and Peter M. Vitousek
Ecology
Vol. 71, No. 2 (Apr., 1990), pp. 478-491
Published by: Wiley
DOI: 10.2307/1940302
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/1940302
Page Count: 14
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Effects of Soil Resources on Plant Invasion and Community Structure in Californian Serpentine Grassland
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Abstract

Non-native annual grasses dominate most Californian mediterranean-climate grasslands today. However, native Californian grassland flora persists in grasslands on serpentine-derived soils. We manipulated soil nutrient resources to explore the links between nutrient availability, plant productivity, and the relative abundances of native and non-native species in serpentine grassland. Factorial combinations of nitrogen, phosphorus, and other components of a nutritionally complete formula were added to field plots over two growing seasons. Fertilization with nitrogen and phosphorus increased biomass of the resident vegetation substantially in the first season, and within two years allowed the invasion and dominance of non-native annual grasses in patches originally dominated by native annual forbs. Species richness declined with fertilization, as the increased biomass production by invaders suppressed some native forbs. Increased macronutrient availability can increase production on serpentine-derived soil, even when other serpentine characteristics (such as low Ca/Mg ratios and high heavy-metal concentrations) have not been mitigated. Observed changes in community structure and composition demonstrate that the invasibility of plant communities may be directly influenced by nutrient availability, independent of physical disturbance.

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