Invasion resistance and persistence: Established plants win, even with disturbance and high propagule pressure

Christopher M. McGlone, Carolyn Hull Sieg, Thomas E. Kolb

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

38 Scopus citations


Disturbances and propagule pressure are key mechanisms in plant community resistance to invasion, as well as persistence of invasions. Few studies, however, have experimentally tested the interaction of these two mechanisms. We initiated a study in a southwestern ponderosa pine (Pinus ponderosa Laws.)/bunch grass system to determine the susceptibility of remnant native plant communities to cheatgrass (Bromus tectorum L.) invasion, and persistence of cheatgrass in invaded areas. We used a 2 × 2 factorial design consisting of two levels of aboveground biomass removal and two levels of reciprocal seeding. We seeded cheatgrass seeds in native plots and a native seed mixture in cheatgrass plots. Two biomass removal disturbances and sowing seeds over 3 years did not reverse cheatgrass dominance in invaded plots or native grass dominance in non-invaded native plots. Our results suggest that two factors dictated the persistence of the resident communities. First, bottlebrush squirreltail (Elymus elymoides (Raf.) Swezey) was the dominant native herbaceous species on the study site. This species is typically a poor competitor with cheatgrass as a seedling, but is a strong competitor when mature. Second, differences in pretreatment levels of plant-available soil nitrogen and phosphorus may have favored the dominant species in each community. Annual species typically require higher levels of plant-available soil nutrients than perennial plants. This trend was observed in the annual cheatgrass community and perennial native community. Our study shows that established plants and soil properties can buffer the influences of disturbance and elevated propagule pressure on cheatgrass invasion.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)291-304
Number of pages14
JournalBiological Invasions
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 2011


  • Arizona
  • Bromus tectorum
  • Disturbance
  • Elymus elymoides
  • Nitrogen
  • Phosphorus
  • Propagule Pressure

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Ecology


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