Plant and Soil

, Volume 186, Issue 2, pp 205–211 | Cite as

Effects of an African grass invasion on Hawaiian shrubland nitrogen biogeochemistry

  • Gregory P. Asner
  • Susan W. Beatty


African perennial C4 grasses are highly successful invaders in Hawaiian ecosystems. We examined the effects of African molasses grass (Melinis minutiflora Beauv.) on Hawaiian shrubland nitrogen (N) dynamics without the influence of fire disturbance. Vegetation tissue carbon and nitrogen chemistry, soil inorganic N pools, net N mineralization rates, and total soil N were studied in three adjacent areas: a monospecificMelinis grassland, a mixed grass/shrubland mosaic, and an un-invaded shrubland.Melinis plots within the mosaic area exhibited the largest inorganic N pools and fastest net N mineralization rates, but were temporally variable with grass phenology. Un-invaded shrubland plots contained the smallest inorganic N pools and lowest net N mineralization rates. Grass foliar C:N and litter C:N were lower than those of common shrubland species, providing one possible link between species and ecosystem N dynamics at this site. The combined effects of N cycle modification, successful light competition, and fire-cycle enhancement make the invasion ofMelinis a significant perturbation to Hawaiian shrubland ecosystem function and successional dynamics. ei]Section editor H Lambers

Key words

African grasses biological invasions ecosystem processes Hawaii Melinis minutiflora nitrogen cycle 


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. Archer S 1990 Development and stability of grass/woody mosaics in a subtropical savanna parkland, Texas, USA. J. Biogeogr. 17, 453–462.Google Scholar
  2. Asner G P 1995 Biological invasion in Hawaii: Effects of molasses grass (Melinis minutiflora) on shrubland nitrogen dynamics and community structure. MA Thesis, University of Colorado, Boulder, Colorado, 82 p.Google Scholar
  3. Asner G P, Seastedt T R and Townsend A R 1996 The decoupling of terrestrial carbon and nitrogen cycles. BioScience (In press).Google Scholar
  4. Aplet G H, Anderson S J and Stone C P 1991 Association between feral pig disturbance and the composition of some alien plant assemblages in Hawaii Volcanoes National Park. Vegetatio 95, 55–62.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Armstrong R W 1983 Atlas of Hawaii. University of Hawaii Press, Honolulu, Hawaii. 238 p.Google Scholar
  6. Berendse F, Bobbink R and Rouwenhorst G 1989 A comparative study on nutrient cycling in wet heathland ecosystems II. Litter decomposition and nutrient mineralization. Oecologia 78, 338–348.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Binkley D 1984 Ion exchange resin bags: factors affecting estimates of nitrogen availability. Soil Sci. Soc. Am. J. 48, 1181–1184.Google Scholar
  8. Blydenstein J 1967 Tropical savanna vegetation of the Llanos of Colombia. Ecology 48, 1–15.Google Scholar
  9. ChapinIII FS 1980 The mineral nutrition of wild plants. Annu. Rev. Ecol. Syst. 11, 233–260.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Clarkson D T 1985 Factors affecting mineral nutrient acquisition by plants. Annu. Rev. Plant Physiol. 36, 77–115.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. D'Antonio C M and Vitousek P M 1992 Biological invasions by exotic grasses, the grass/fire cycle, and global change. Annu. Rev. Ecol. Syst. 23, 63–87.Google Scholar
  12. Elton C S 1958 The Ecology of Invasions by Animals and Plants. Methuen, London, England. 181 p.Google Scholar
  13. Gibson J D 1986 Spatial and temporal heterogeneity in soil nutrient supply measured using in situ ion-exchange resin bags. Plant and Soil 96, 445–450.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Hale M G and Orcutt D M 1987 The Physiology of Plants Under Stress. John Wiley and Sons, New York, USA. 206 p.Google Scholar
  15. Hart S C and Binkley D 1985 Correlations among indices of forest soil nutrient availability in fertilized and unfertilized loblolly pine plantations. Plant and Soil 85, 11–21.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Haselwood E L and Motter G G 1983 Handbook of Hawaiian weeds. University of Hawaii Press, Honolulu, Hawaii, 491 p.Google Scholar
  17. Hobbs N T, Schimel D S, Owensby C E and Ojima D S 1991 Fire and grazing in the tallgrass prairie: contingent effects on nitrogen budgets. Ecology 72, 1374–1382.Google Scholar
  18. Hughes F and Vitousek P M 1993 Barriers to shrub reestablishment following fire in the seasonal submontane zone of Hawaii. Oecologia 93, 557–563.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Hughes F, Vitousek P M and Tunison T 1991 Alien grass invasion and fire in the seasonal submontane zone of Hawaii. Ecology 72, 743–746.Google Scholar
  20. Jarvis P J 1979 The ecology of plant and animal introductions. Prog. Physiol. Geograph. 3, 187–214.Google Scholar
  21. Marschner H 1986 Mineral Nutrition of Higher Plants. Academic Press, London, UK. 674 p.Google Scholar
  22. Matson P A 1990 Plant-soil interactions in primary succession at Hawaii Volanoes National Park. Oecologia 85, 214–246.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Mueller-Dombois D and Goldammer J G 1990 Fire in tropical ecosystems and global environmental change: an introduction.In Fire in the Tropical Biota: Ecosystem Processes and Global Challenges. Ed. J GGoldammer. pp 1–10. Springer-Verlag, Berlin, Germany.Google Scholar
  24. Ojima D S, Schimel D S, Parton W J and Owensby C E 1994 Long- and short-term effects of fire on nitrogen cycling in tallgrass prairie. Biogeochemistry 24, 67–84.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Parsons J J 1970 Spread of African pasture grasses in the American tropics. J. Range Manage. 25, 12–17.Google Scholar
  26. Pastor J, Aber J D and McClaugherty C A 1984 Aboveground production and N and P cycling along a nitrogen mineralization gradient on Blackhawk Island, Wisconsin. Ecology 65, 256–268.Google Scholar
  27. Seastedt T R and Knapp A K 1993 Consequences of nonequilibrium resource availability across multiple time scales: the transient maxima hypothesis. Am. Nat. 141, 621–633.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Skerman P J and Riveros F 1990 Tropical Grasses. FAO of the United Nations, Rome, Italy.Google Scholar
  29. Smith C W 1985 Impact of alien plants on Hawaii's native biota.In Hawaii's Terrestrial Ecosystems: Preservation and Management. Eds. C PStone and J MScott. pp 180–250. University of Hawaii Press, Honolulu, Hawaii.Google Scholar
  30. Sokal R R and Rohlf F J 1981 Biometry. W H Freeman and Company, New York, USA. 859 p.Google Scholar
  31. Stearns H T 1985 Geology of the State of Hawaii. Pacific Books, Palo Alto, California, USA. 335 p.Google Scholar
  32. Vitousek P M, Walker L R, Whiteaker L D, Mueller-Dombois D and Matson P A 1987 Biological invasion byMyrica faya alters ecosystem development in Hawaii. Science 238, 802–804.Google Scholar
  33. Wedin D A and Tilman D 1990 Species effects on nitrogen cycling: a test with perennial grasses. Oecologia 84, 433–441.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Kluwer Academic Publishers 1996

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of GeographyUniversity of ColoradoBoulderUSA

Personalised recommendations