Patch dynamics of a native grass in relation to the spread of invasive smooth brome (Bromus inermis)
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The effects of invasive species on the patch dynamics (establishment, growth, and local extinction) of native species are not well studied, owing to the need for relatively fine-scale data on the distribution of species. Within the prairie pothole region of the United States and Canada, the grass, Bromus inermis (smooth brome) has become established by invading disturbed prairies, and through repeated introductions for soil retention and animal graze. In this study, the impact of smooth brome on the patch dynamics of a dominant native grass species, Spartina pectinata (prairie cordgrass), was assessed using fine-scale (sub-meter) mapping of the distribution of cordgrass and brome in three prairie fragments from 2000 to 2006. Using GIS spatial analyses, we determined that cordgrass patch growth was two times greater in areas not invaded by smooth brome versus areas that were heavily infested with smooth brome. Among sites and time periods, there was a consistent significant negative relationship between the amount of smooth brome surrounding a patch of cordgrass and the growth of that cordgrass patch. The probability of establishment of a new patch of cordgrass averaged 1.3 times higher in areas of low brome coverage (<25%) than areas of high brome coverage (>75%). Conversely, existing cordgrass patches were 7.8 times more likely to go extinct in areas of high than low brome coverage. This is one of only a few field studies to provide evidence of the negative impact of smooth brome on native flora and hopefully will serve as justification for the development of a formal management plan to limit the distribution of this species in tallgrass prairie ecosystems.