Plant Ecology

, Volume 184, Issue 1, pp 53-63

First online:

Shrub establishment under experimental global changes in a California grassland

  • Erika S. ZavaletaAffiliated withEnvironmental Studies Department, University of California Email author 

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Accelerating invasion of grasslands by woody species is a widespread global phenomenon. The native shrub Baccharis pilularis has recently increased in abundance in some California grasslands, with large local community and ecosystem effects. I investigated potential contributions of (1) future global climate and atmospheric changes and (2) variation in moisture and nutrient availability to increased Baccharis germination and early establishment rates. I examined responses of Baccharis seeds and seedlings to simulated warming (+ 1−2 °C) and elevated CO2 (+ 300 ppm) in a 2-year field experiment. Warming and CO2 treatments were applied at ambient and increased water and nitrogen levels chosen to simulate future increases in precipitation (+ 50%) and N deposition (+ 7 gN  m−2 y−1). Elevated CO2 and water addition each increased or accelerated germination. Herbivory strongly reduced seedling populations during the winter wet season; drought further reduced seedling survival in the spring. Overall Baccharis survivorship was extremely low (<0.1%) across all treatments, complicating the interpretation of global change effects.


Baccharis pilularis Climate change Colonization Elevated CO2 Nitrogen fertilization Shrub