Invasive Melinis minutiflora outperforms native species, but the magnitude of the effect is context-dependent

  • Rafael D. Zenni
  • Alexandre B. Sampaio
  • Yara P. Lima
  • Marco Pessoa-Filho
  • Tulio C. L. Lins
  • Vania R. Pivello
  • Curtis Daehler
Original Paper


Impacts of invasive species are context-dependent owing to genetic differences in the invasive species, in the abiotic environment or the recipient biotas. Here, we tested how these factors affected the invasive grass Melinis minutiflora and its impacts on native plants in Hawai’i (USA) and in the Brazilian Cerrado under four environmental conditions. We sampled M. minutiflora and three native species from each studied region and conducted two equivalent greenhouse experiments. In each experiment, we manipulated shade, irrigation, soil nutrients, and interspecific competition. We found that M. minutiflora had low genetic polymorphism, and two distinct genetic clusters exist. Both clusters exist in Hawai’i and Brazil. Melinis minutiflora biomass was three-times greater in Brazil compared to Hawai’i. Both in Brazil and Hawai’i, M. minutiflora was affected by shade, irrigation, and competition. While in Brazil the identity of the competing native species did not matter for M. minutiflora, in Hawai’i the identity of the native species affected M. minutiflora when shade was applied. Brazilian native species were all affected by shading, two of them by competition with M. minutiflora, and one of them by fertilization. Two Hawaiian native plants were affected by shade and competition with M. minutiflora, whereas one native species was not affected by any of the experimental factors. In summary, both biotic and abiotic factors affected native and invasive species. However, in all cases native species were outperformed by the invader.


Brazil Cerrado Hawai’i Invasion biogeography Invasion ecology Invasiveness Molasses grass 



We thank Isabel Schmidt, Courtney Angelo, Mashuri Waite, Amy Tsuneyoshi, Travis Idol, Servillano Lamer, Sergio Tadeu Meirelles, and Agno Damasceno for assistance with field and greenhouse work. We thank Carlos Romero Martins, Clyde Imada and Neil Snow for grass specimens’ identification. The study was funded by Fundação de Apoio à Pesquisa de São Paulo (FAPESP) and Natural Grasslands Conservancy. We used the facilities of the University of Hawai‘I, Departments of Botany and NREM, in Hawai’i, and the Juquery State Park in Brazil. RDZ and ABS were supported by CNPq-Brazil.

Author’s Contributions

RDZ analysed the data and wrote the manuscript. ABS, VRP, and CD designed and carried out the experiments. YPL, MP-F, and TCLL collected data and performed the genetic analyses. All authors revised the manuscript.

Supplementary material

10530_2018_1854_MOESM1_ESM.docx (18 kb)
Supplementary material 1 (DOCX 18 kb)


  1. Almeida-Neto M, Prado PI, Kubota U et al (2010) Invasive grasses and native Asteraceae in the Brazilian Cerrado. Plant Ecol 209:109–122CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Bellard C, Cassey P, Blackburn TM (2016) Alien species as a driver of recent extinctions. Biol Lett 12:20150623. CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  3. Carthey AJR, Banks PB (2014) Naïveté in novel ecological interactions: lessons from theory and experimental evidence. Biol Rev 89:932–949. CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  4. Cook B, Pengelly B, Brown S et al (2005) Tropical forages: an interactive selection tool. CSIRO, DPI&F(Qld), CIAT and ILRI, Brisbane, AustraliaGoogle Scholar
  5. Crawford KM, Whitney KD (2010) Population genetic diversity influences colonization success. Mol Ecol 19:1253–1263. CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  6. D’Antonio CM, Dudley TL (1995) Biological invasions as agents of change on islands versus mainlands. In: Vitousek PM, Loope LL, Adsersen H (eds) Islands: biological diversity and ecosystem function. Springer, Berlin, pp 103–121CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Diez JM, Williams PA, Randall RP et al (2009) Learning from failures: testing broad taxonomic hypotheses about plant naturalization. Ecol Lett 12:1174–1183. CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  8. Doyle JJ, Doyle JL (1987) A rapid DNA isolation procedure for small quantities of fresh leaf tissue. Phytochem Bull 19:11–15Google Scholar
  9. Earl DA, VonHoldt BM (2012) STRUCTURE HARVESTER: a website and program for visualizing STRUCTURE output and implementing the Evanno method. Conserv Genet Resour 4:359–361. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Eller CB, Oliveira RS (2017) Effects of nitrogen availability on the competitive interactions between an invasive and a native grass from Brazilian cerrado. Plant Soil 410:63–72. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Evanno G, Regnaut S, Goudet J (2005) Detecting the number of clusters of individuals using the software structure: a simulation study. Mol Ecol 14:2611–2620. CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  12. Ferreira ME, Grattapaglia D (1998) Introdução ao uso de marcadores moleculares em análise genética, 3rd edn. Embrapa-Cenargen, Brasília, BrazilGoogle Scholar
  13. Gimeno I, Vilà M, Hulme PE (2006) Are islands more susceptible to plant invasion than continents? A test using Oxalis pes-caprae L. in the western Mediterranean. J Biogeogr 33:1559–1565CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Hardesty BD, Le Roux JJ, Rocha OJ et al (2012) Getting here from there: testing the genetic paradigm underpinning introduction histories and invasion success. Divers Distrib 18:147–157. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Hierro JL, Maron JL, Callaway RM (2005) A biogeographical approach to plant invasions: the importance of studying exotics in their introduced and native range. J Ecol 93:5–15. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Hoffmann WA, Haridasan M (2008) The invasive grass, Melinis minutiflora, inhibits tree regeneration in a Neotropical savanna. Austral Ecol 33:29–36. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Kueffer C, Daehler CC, Torres-Santana CW et al (2010) A global comparison of plant invasions on oceanic islands. Perspect Plant Ecol Evol Syst 12:145–161. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Longhi-Wagner HM (1990) Diversidade e distribuição geográfica das espécies de Aristida L. (Gramineae) ocorrentes no Brasil. Acta Bot Brasil 4:105–124CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Martins CR (2006) Caracterização e manejo da gramínea Melinis minutiflora P. Beauv. (Capim-gordura): uma espécie invasora do Cerrado. Universidade de BrasíliaGoogle Scholar
  20. Pivello V, Shida C, Meirelles S (1999) Alien grasses in Brazilian savannas: a threat to the biodiversity. Biodivers Conserv 8:1281–1294CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Porras-Hurtado L, Ruiz Y, Santos C et al (2013) An overview of STRUCTURE: applications, parameter settings, and supporting software. Front Genet. CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  22. Pritchard JK, Stephens M, Donnelly P (2000) Inference of population structure using multilocus genotype data. Genetics 155:945–959. CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  23. Quinn GP, Keough MJ (2002) Experimental design and data analysis for biologists. Cambridge University Press, New YorkCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Rossi RD, Martins CR, Viana PL et al (2014) Impact of invasion by molasses grass (Melinis minutiflora P. Beauv.) on native species and on fires in areas of campo-cerrado in Brazil. Acta Bot Brasil 28:631–637CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. van Kleunen M, Dawson W, Essl F et al (2015) Global exchange and accumulation of non-native plants. Nature 525:100–103. CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  26. Yelenik SG, D’Antonio CM (2013) Self-reinforcing impacts of plant invasions change over time. Nature 503:517–520. CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  27. Zenni RD, Nuñez MA (2013) The elephant in the room: the role of failed invasions in understanding invasion biology. Oikos. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Zenni RD, Ziller SR (2011) An overview of invasive plants in Brazil. Braz J Bot 34:431–446CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Zenni RD, Bailey JK, Simberloff D (2014) Rapid evolution and range expansion of an invasive plant are driven by provenance–environment interactions. Ecol Lett. CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  30. Zenni RD, Dickie IA, Wingfield MJ et al (2017) Evolutionary dynamics of tree invasions: complementing the unified framework for biological invasions. AoB Plants. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Zuur AF, Ieno EN, Walker N et al (2009) Mixed effects models and extensions in ecology with R. Springer, New YorkCrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Setor de Ecologia, Departamento de BiologiaUniversidade Federal de LavrasLavrasBrazil
  2. 2.Centro Nacional de Pesquisa e Conservação do Cerrado - Instituto Chico Mendes de Conservação da BiodiversidadeBrasíliaBrazil
  3. 3.Universidade Católica de BrasíliaBrasíliaBrazil
  4. 4.Embrapa CerradosPlanaltinaBrazil
  5. 5.Instituto da Ciência da Saúde, Campus BrasíliaUniversidade PaulistaBrasíliaBrazil
  6. 6.Departamento de EcologiaUniversidade de São PauloCidade UniversitáriaBrazil
  7. 7.Department of BotanyUniversity of Hawai’iHonoluluUSA

Personalised recommendations