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Biological Invasions

, Volume 17, Issue 6, pp 1833–1847 | Cite as

Escaped Miscanthus sacchariflorus reduces the richness and diversity of vegetation and the soil seed bank

  • Heather A. Hager
  • Rochelle Rupert
  • Lauren D. Quinn
  • Jonathan A. Newman
Original Paper

Abstract

Prioritizing management efforts and funds for invasive species relies upon knowledge of their ecological impacts. Often, however, novel species have unknown effects and can exhibit long time lags before proliferating, making early management decisions difficult. The grasses Miscanthus sinensis, M. sacchariflorus, and their sterile hybrid M. × giganteus have been introduced to North America and elsewhere for horticultural and agricultural purposes, but little is known about their impacts on resident vegetation upon escape from cultivation. We compared the vegetation communities and soil seed bank of paired areas invaded and uninvaded by escaped M. sacchariflorus at ten sites in Ontario, Canada. Invaded plots had very few species other than M. sacchariflorus and had lower plant species abundance, richness, and diversity than did uninvaded plots, and effects were greater on the vegetation than on the seed bank. Invaded plots also had more live and dead standing biomass, taller vegetation, and greater litter biomass, along with decreased light penetration to the soil surface than in uninvaded plots. However, M. sacchariflorus did not produce a germinable seed bank. Our results suggest that the regional spread of M. sacchariflorus is currently limited by a lack of seed production/viability, but its occurrence along disturbance-prone roadways and drainages facilitates its local vegetative spread. The strong negative effects of M. sacchariflorus on the resident plant community should be considered in risk assessments and management planning for this and other Miscanthus species.

Keywords

Biofuels Invader impact Seedling emergence method Soil seed bank composition Miscanthus sacchariflorus Vegetation community 

Notes

Acknowledgments

We thank Rachelle Bisaillon, Hajnal Kovacs, Emily Palmer, Aurora Patchett, and Becky Viejou for assistance in the field, laboratory, and greenhouse; Carole Ann LaCroix for assistance with plant identification; Kim Bolton for performing soil analyses; and two anonymous reviewers. We gratefully acknowledge all participating landowners for allowing access to their properties. Funding was provided by the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture and Food and Ministry of Rural Affairs, and a Mitacs Elevate post-doctoral fellowship.

Supplementary material

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Supplementary material 5 (PDF 130 kb)
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Supplementary material 6 (PDF 365 kb)

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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing Switzerland 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  • Heather A. Hager
    • 1
  • Rochelle Rupert
    • 1
  • Lauren D. Quinn
    • 2
  • Jonathan A. Newman
    • 1
  1. 1.School of Environmental SciencesUniversity of GuelphGuelphCanada
  2. 2.Energy Biosciences InstituteUniversity of IllinoisUrbanaUSA

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