, Volume 11, Issue 8, pp 1803-1820

Exotic shrub invasion in an undisturbed wetland has little community-level effect over a 15-year period

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In this long-term study, we examined the invasion by the exotic shrub glossy buckthorn (Rhamnus frangula L.) and the response of co-occurring plants in a large, undisturbed wetland. We first sampled the vegetation in 1991 and repeated the sample 15 years later using the same, permanently located sample units (n = 165). Despite dramatic increases in the abundance of buckthorn, the invasion elicited little apparent response by the resident plant community. Species richness and cover in the herbaceous plant stratum had no apparent relationship with change in buckthorn cover. The number of shrub species other than buckthorn showed no relationship with change in buckthorn cover, but the cover of other shrubs decreased as buckthorn cover increased. Species composition changed independently of changes in buckthorn cover. These results show that dramatic increases in the abundance of an invasive species do not necessarily cause large changes in the native plant community and suggest disturbance history influences community response to invasion.