Clonal integration facilitates the proliferation of smooth brome clones invading northern fescue prairies
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- Otfinowski, R. & Kenkel, N.C. Plant Ecol (2008) 199: 235. doi:10.1007/s11258-008-9428-8
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Predicting exotic invaders and reducing their impacts on the biodiversity and function of native ecosystems require understanding of the mechanisms that facilitate their success during key stages of invasion. We determined whether clonal growth, characteristic of the majority of successful invaders of natural areas, facilitates the proliferation of Bromus inermis (smooth brome), an exotic grass invading prairie ecosystems across the Great Plains. By manipulating the below-ground connections of proliferating rhizomes as well as the levels of soil nitrogen along the margins of clones invading northern fescue prairies in Manitoba, Canada, we hypothesized that physiological integration would most benefit ramets invading low resource environments. Severing clonal connections reduced the mass of smooth brome shoots invading native prairies and was exacerbated by the immobilization of soil nutrients with glucose. Clonal connections were equally important in the maintenance of smooth brome density and the horizontal proliferation of ramets. Our results demonstrate the role of physiological integration in the proliferation of a clonal exotic invader and may help explain the success of clonal invaders in other regions. Although integration among invading ramets suggests several possibilities for successful management, future research must continue to elucidate differences in the invasiveness of native versus exotic species as well as the persistence of clonal connections among exotic invaders.