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Intra and interspecific competition among invasive and native species during early stages of plant growth

Mangla, Seema, Sheley, Roger L., James, Jeremy J., Radosevich, Steven R.
Plant ecology 2011 v.212 no.4 pp. 531
intraspecific competition, interspecific competition, nitrogen
Plant competition is a primary ecological process limiting grassland restoration success. Appropriate restoration techniques require an understanding of the degree to which intra and interspecific competition control invasive and native plant growth. The objective of this study was to determine how the intensity of intra and interspecific competition changes during early stages of plant growth. Two invasive (Bromus tectorum and Taeniatherum caput-medusae) and two native (Pseudoroegneria spicata and Poa secunda) species were grown in a diallel competition experiment, either alone or in 1:1 binary combinations and exposed to two levels of N (no N or 400 mg N kg⁻¹ soil added) in a greenhouse. Total biomass for each species was quantified over four harvests and competitive effects were calculated. Our results show that the relative magnitude of intra and interspecific competition changes through time. Intraspecific competition was intense for native species at the initial harvests and therefore important in contributing to the outcome of final size of native species seedlings. Interestingly, bluebunch wheatgrass imposed interspecific competition on annual grasses at the first two harvests and appeared to be a better competitor than Sandberg's bluegrass. We found that fast growing invasive species became more competitive compared to slow growing native species with increasing N and appear to establish a positive feedback mechanism between size and resource uptake. Opportunities to improve restoration success exist from determining the optimum combination of density, species proportion, and their spatial arrangement in various ecosystems and environments.