, Volume 148, Issue 1-2, pp 121-134

Light competition for invasive species control: A model of cover crop–weed competition and implications for Phalaris arundinacea control in sedge meadow wetlands

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Since resource competition plays a critical role in many plant invasions, controlling invasive vegetation may require managing the supply of limiting resources. For example, lowering light availability with a cover crop might prevent invasions during community establishment in light-limited restored ecosystems. However, most cover crops evaluated for invasive species control either do not adequately suppress invasives or equally suppress desired species. To improve our ability to predict cover crop effectiveness, we use a theoretical model of plant competition to identify potential mechanisms by which cover crops might favor desired species over invasives. In addition, we consider the model's implications for controlling an invasive forage, Phalaris arundinacea, in restored sedge meadows. The model suggests that cover crops will improve the outcome of competition between desired and invasive species only when (1) desired species have lower minimum light requirements than invasive species and (2) invasive species dominance results from rapid establishment and resource preemption. Cover crops in the model favor desired species over faster-growing invasives because faster-growing invasives are positioned higher in the canopy. Invasive species higher in the canopy shade desired species more than desired species shade invasives. Consequently, by reducing invasive species biomass, cover crops give desired species a competitive advantage. The simple requirements for cover crop success in the model suggest that cover crops may be effective for invasive species control in light-limited restored ecosystems. The available information on P. arundinacea responses to shade suggests, however, that cover crops are unlikely to favor sedge meadow species over P. arundinacea.