, Volume 16, Issue 9, pp 1991-2001
Date: 01 Feb 2014

Quantifying targets to manage invasion risk: light gradients dominate the early regeneration niche of naturalized and pre-commercial Miscanthus populations

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Prospective bioenergy crops have caused concern about their invasive potential because they often share characteristics with known invasive species. Studies that examine the factors that limit regeneration of these crop species will be crucial for identifying vulnerable habitats and devising management strategies to reduce the likelihood of escape from cultivation. Using a response surface design, we investigated the influence of light availability, soil moisture, and litter cover on recruitment and establishment of a potential biofuel cultivar of Miscanthus as well as an invasive congener. Responses were similar for the two plant types. Light availability had a strong influence on seedling success at both stages, though light limitation prevented establishment only at the lowest light level. Although variation in recruitment rates was low within plant types, establishment varied extensively in response to different light conditions. Low variation in Miscanthus seedling recruitment that led to establishment of a seedling bank under a range of light intensities may facilitate a “sit and wait” situation that raises the likelihood of successful escapes. Therefore, management efforts that restrict seed movement and increase light competition for seedlings will be important for lowering invasion risk. As deliberate introductions of bioenergy crops increase, ecological studies that quantify conditions required for successful escapes will be key to helping agronomists and managers mitigate the risk of unintended invasions.