, Volume 150, Issue 2, pp 300–309

Aboveground productivity and root–shoot allocation differ between native and introduced grass species

Community Ecology


Plant species in grasslands are often separated into groups (C4 and C3 grasses, and forbs) with presumed links to ecosystem functioning. Each of these in turn can be separated into native and introduced (i.e., exotic) species. Although numerous studies have compared plant traits between the traditional groups of grasses and forbs, fewer have compared native versus introduced species. Introduced grass species, which were often introduced to prevent erosion or to improve grazing opportunities, have become common or even dominant species in grasslands. By virtue of their abundances, introduced species may alter ecosystems if they differ from natives in growth and allocation patterns. Introduced grasses were probably selected nonrandomly from the source population for forage (aboveground) productivity. Based on this expectation, aboveground production is predicted to be greater and root mass fraction to be smaller in introduced than native species. We compared root and shoot distribution and tissue quality between introduced and native C4 grass species in the Blackland Prairie region of Central Texas, USA, and then compared differences to the more well-studied divergence between C4 grasses and forbs. Comparisons were made in experimental monocultures planted with equal-sized transplants on a common soil type and at the same density. Aboveground productivity and C:N ratios were higher, on average, in native grasses than in native forbs, as expected. Native and introduced grasses had comparable amounts of shallow root biomass and tissue C:N ratios. However, aboveground productivity and total N were lower and deep root biomass and root mass fraction were greater in native than introduced grasses. These differences in average biomass distribution and N could be important to ecosystems in cases where native and introduced grasses have been exchanged. Our results indicate that native–introduced status may be important when interpreting species effects on grassland processes like productivity and plant N accumulation.


Invasive species Introduced species Exotic species Grasslands Root biomass Tallgrass prairie Texas 


  1. Anderson VJ, Briske DD (1999) Herbivore-induced species replacement in grasslands: is it driven by herbivore tolerance or avoidance? Ecol Appl 5:1014–1024Google Scholar
  2. Baruch Z, Goldstein G (1999) Leaf construction cost, nutrient concentration, and net CO2 assimilation of native and invasive species in Hawaii. Oecologia 121:183–192CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Bolton H, Smith JL, Link SO (1993) Soil microbial biomass and activity of a disturbed and undisturbed shrub–steppe ecosystem. Soil Sci Soc Am J 54:887–891CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Caldwell M, Richards JH, Johnson DA, Nowak RS, Dzurec RS (1981) Coping with herbivory: photosynthetic capacity and resource allocation in two semiarid Agropyron bunchgrasses. Oecologia 50:14–24CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Callaway RM, Aschehoug ET (2000) Invasive plants versus their new and old neighbors: a mechanism for exotic invasion. Science 290:521–523PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Callaway JC, Josselyn MN (1992) The introduction and spread of smooth cordgrass (Spartina alterniflora) in South San Francisco Bay. Estuaries 15:218–226CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Callaway RM, Thelon GC, Rodriguez A, Holben WE (2004) Soil biota and exotic plant invasion. Nature 427:731–733PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Chapin FS III, Reynolds HL, D’Antonio CM, Eckhart VM (1996) The functional role of species in terrestrial ecosystems. In: Walker BH, Steffen WL (eds) Global change and terrestrial ecosystems. Cambridge University Press, CambridgeGoogle Scholar
  9. Christian JM, Wilson SD (1999) Long-term ecosystem impacts of an introduced grass in the northern great plains. Ecology 80:2397–2407CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Correll DS, Johnston MC (1979) Manual of the vascular plants of Texas. University of Texas, Dallas, TXGoogle Scholar
  11. Craine JM, Lee WG (2003) Covariation in leaf and root traits for native and non-native grasses along an altitudinal gradient in New Zealand. Oecologia 134:471–478PubMedGoogle Scholar
  12. Cully AC, Cully JF Jr, Hiebert RD (2003) Invasion of exotic plant species in tallgrass prairie fragments. Conserv Biol 17:990–998Google Scholar
  13. D’Antonio CM, Hobbie SE (2005) Plant species effects on ecosystem processes: insights from invasive species. In: Sax DF, Stachowicz JJ, Gaines SD (eds) Species invasions: insights into ecology, evolution and biogeography. Sinauer Associates, Inc., Sunderland, MA, pp 65–85Google Scholar
  14. D’Antonio CM, Vitousek PM (1992) Biological invasions by exotic grasses, the grass/fire cycle and global change. Annu Rev Ecol Syst 23:63–87Google Scholar
  15. Daehler CC (2003) Performance comparisons of co-occurring native and alien invasive plants: implications for conservation and restoration. Annu Rev Ecol Evol Syst 34:183–211CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Diggs GM Jr, Lipscomb BL, O’Kennon RJ (1999) Shinners and Mahler’s illustrated flora of North Central Texas. Botanical Research Institute of Texas, Fort Worth, TXGoogle Scholar
  17. Ehrenfeld JG (2003) Effects of exotic plant invasions on soil nutrient cycling processes. Ecosystems 6:503–523CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Ehrenfeld JG, Kourtev P, Huang W (2001) Changes in soil functions following invasions of exotic understory plants in deciduous forests. Ecol Appl 11:1287–1301Google Scholar
  19. Evans RD, Rimer R, Sperry L, Belnap J (2001) Exotic plant invasion alters nitrogen dynamics in an arid grassland. Ecol Appl 11:1301–1311Google Scholar
  20. Fisher MJ, Rao IM, Ayarza MA, Lascano CE, Sanz JI, Thomas RJ, Vera RR (1994) Carbon storage by introduced deep-rooted grasses in the South American savannas. Nature 371:236–238CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Gill RA, Burke IC (2002) Influence of soil depth on the decomposition of Bouteloua gracilis roots in the shortgrass steppe. Plant Soil 241:233–242Google Scholar
  22. Gill R, Burke IC, Milchunas DG, Lauenroth WK (1999) Relationship between root biomass and soil organic matter pools in the shortgrass steppe of eastern Colorado. Ecosystems 2:226–237CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Hatch SL, Pluhar J (1993) Texas range plants. Texas A&M University Press, College Station, TXGoogle Scholar
  24. Holmes TH, Rice KJ (1996) Patterns of growth and soil–water utilization in some exotic annuals and native perennial bunchgrasses of California. Ann Bot 78:233–243Google Scholar
  25. Hooper ER, Legendre P, Condit R (2004) Factors affecting community composition of forest regeneration in deforested, abandoned land in Panama. Ecology 85:3313–3326Google Scholar
  26. Hooper DU, Chapin FS III, Ewel JJ, Hector A, Inchausti P, Lavorel S, Lawton JH, Lodge DM, Loreau M, Naeem S, Schmid B, Setälä H, Symstad AJ, Vandermeer J, Wardle DA (2005) Effects of biodiversity on ecosystem functioning: a consensus of current knowledge. Ecol Monogr 75:3–37Google Scholar
  27. Jackson RB, Canadell J, Ehleringer JR, Mooney HA, Sala OE, Schulze ED (1996) A global analysis of root distributions for terrestrial biomes. Oecologia 108:389–391CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Levine JM, D’Antonio CM (1999) Elton revisited: a review of evidence linking diversity and invasibility. Oikos 87:15–26Google Scholar
  29. Littell RC, Stroup WW, Freund RJ (2002) SAS for linear models, 4th edn. SAS Institute, Cary, NCGoogle Scholar
  30. Loreti J, Osterheld M, Sala O (2001) Lack of intraspecific variation in resistance to defoliation in a grass that evolved under light grazing pressure. Plant Ecol 157:195–202CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. McCulley RL, Jobbáágy EG, Pockman WT, Jackson RB (2004) Nutrient uptake as a contributing explanation for deep rooting in arid and semi-arid ecosystems. Oecologia 141:620–628PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. McDougal AS, Turkington R (2005) Are invasive species the drivers or passengers of change in degraded systems? Ecology 86:42–56Google Scholar
  33. McNaughton SJ (1983) Serengeti grassland ecology: the role of composite environmental factors and contingency in community organization. Ecology 53:291–320Google Scholar
  34. Nepstad DC, Decarvalho CR, Davidson EA, Jipp PH, Lefebrvre PA, Negreiros GH, Dasilva ED, Stone TA, Trumbore SE, Viera S (1994) The role of deep roots in the hydrological and carbon cycles of amazonian forests and pastures. Nature 372:666–669Google Scholar
  35. Neter J, Kutner MH, Nachtsheim CJ, Wasserman W (1996) Applied linear statistical methods, 4th edn. McGraw-Hill/Irwin, Chicago, ILGoogle Scholar
  36. Olden JD, Poff NL (2003) Toward a mechanistic understanding and prediction of biotic homogenization. Am Nat 162:442–460PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Platt WJ, Gottschalk RM (2001) Effects of exotic grasses on potential fire fuel loads in the groundcover of south Florida slash pine savannas. Int J Wildland Fire 10:155–159CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Polley HW, Johnson HB, Derner JD (2002) Soil and plant-water dynamics in a C3/C4 grassland exposed to a subambient to superambient CO2 gradient. Glob Change Biol 8:1118–1129CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Polley HW, Wilsey BJ, Derner JD (2003) Do plant species evenness and plant density influence the magnitude of selection and complementarity effects in annual plant species mixtures? Ecol Lett 6:248–256CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Pyke D (1990) Comparative demography of co-occurring introduced and native tussock grasses: persistence and potential expansion. Oecologia 82:537–543CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Reed HE, Seastedt TR, Blair JM (2005) Ecological consequences of C4 grass invasion of a C4 grassland: a dilemma for management. Ecol Appl 15:1560–1570Google Scholar
  42. Richards J (1984) Root growth response to defoliation in two Agropyron bunchgrasses: field observations with an improved periscope. Oecologia 64:21–25CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. Richardson DM, Pyšek P, Rejmánek M, Barbour MG, Panetta FD, West CJ (2000) Naturalization and invasion of alien plants: concepts and definitions. Divers Distrib 6:93–107CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. Risser PG, Birney EC, Blocker HD, May SW, Parton WJ, Wiens JA (1981) The true prairie ecosystem (US/IBP Synthesis Series 16). Hutchison Ross Publishing, Stroudsberg, PAGoogle Scholar
  45. Rutherford MC, Pressinger FM, Musil CF (1986) Standing crops, growth rates and resource use efficiency in alien plant invaded ecosystems. In: Macdonald IAW, Kruger FJ, Ferrar AA (eds) The ecology and management of biological invasions in southern Africa. Oxford University Press, Cape Town, pp 189–98Google Scholar
  46. Schenk HJ, Jackson RB (2002) Rooting depths, lateral root spreads and below-ground/above-ground allometries of plants in water-limited ecosystems. J Ecol 90:480–494CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. Seabloom EW, Borer ET, Boucher VL, Burton RS, Cottingham KL, Goldwasser L, Gram WK, Kendall BE, Micheli F (2003) Competition, seed limitation, disturbance, and reestablishment of California native annual forbs. Ecol Appl 13:575–592Google Scholar
  48. Simoes M, Baruch Z (1991) Responses to simulated herbivory and water stress in two tropical C4 grasses. Oecologia 88:173–180CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  49. Sims PL, Dewald CL (1982) Old World bluestems and their forage potential for the southern Great Plains: a review of early studies. ARM-S−28, USDA, New Orleans, LAGoogle Scholar
  50. Smith MD, Knapp AK (2001) Physiological and morphological traits of exotic, invasive exotic, and native plant species in tallgrass prairie. Int J Plant Sci 162:785–792CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  51. Soriano A (1991) Río de la plata grasslands. In: Coupland RT (eds) Ecosystems of the world 8A. Elsevier, AmsterdamGoogle Scholar
  52. Stevens J (1986) Applied multivariate statistics for the social sciences, 3rd edn. Lawrence Erlbaum, MahwahGoogle Scholar
  53. Tjoelker MG, Craine JM, Wedin D, Reich PB, Tilman D (2005) Linking leaf and root trait syndromes among 39 grassland and savannah species. New Phytol 167:493–508PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  54. Versfeld DB, van Wilgren BS (1986) Impact of woody aliens on ecosystem properties. In: Macdonald IAW, Kruger FJ, Ferrar AA (eds) The ecology and management of biological invasions in southern Africa. Oxford University Press, Cape Town, pp 239–246Google Scholar
  55. Vilà M, Weiner J (2004) Are invasive plant species better competitors than native plant species?—evidence from pair-wise experiments. Oikos 105:229–239CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  56. Vitousek P (1990) Biological invasions and ecosystem process—towards an integration of population biology and ecosystem studies. Oikos 57:7–13Google Scholar
  57. Vitousek P (1994) Beyond global warming: ecology and global change. Ecology 75:1861–1877CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  58. Weaver JE, Houghen VH, Weldon MD (1935) Relation of root distribution to organic matter in prairie soil. Bot Gaz 96:389–420CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  59. Wedin DA, Tilman D (1990) Species effects on nitrogen cycling: a test with perennial grasses. Oecologia 84:433–441Google Scholar
  60. Wedin DA, Tilman D (1996) Influence of nitrogen loading and species composition on the carbon balance of grasslands. Science 274:1720–1723Google Scholar
  61. Wilcove DS, Rothstein D, Dubow J, Phillips A, Losos E (1998) Quantifying threats to imperilled species in the United States. Bioscience 48:607–615CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  62. Wilsey BJ (2005) Importance of species replication to understanding plant invasions into North American grasslands. In: Inderjit (ed) Plant invasions: ecological and agricultural aspects. Birkhauser-Verlag, Basel, SwitzerlandGoogle Scholar
  63. Wilsey BJ, Polley HW (2003) Effects of seed additions and grazing history on diversity and aboveground productivity of sub-humid grasslands. Ecology 84:920–932Google Scholar
  64. Wilsey BJ, Polley HW (2004) Realistically low species evenness does not alter grassland species richness-productivity relationships. Ecology 85:2693–2700Google Scholar
  65. Wilsey BJ, Potvin C (2000) Biodiversity and ecosystem functioning: importance of species evenness in an old field. Ecology 81:887–892CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2006

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Ecology, Evolution and Organismal Biology, 253 Bessey HallIowa State UniversityAmesUSA
  2. 2.USDA-ARS, Grassland, Soil and Water Research LaboratoryTempleUSA

Personalised recommendations