Biological Invasions

, Volume 18, Issue 9, pp 2475–2495 | Cite as

Life on the edge: reproductive mode and rate of invasive Phragmites australis patch expansion

  • Karin M. Kettenring
  • Karen E. Mock
  • Bushra Zaman
  • Mac McKee
Phragmites Invasion


The dynamics of plant invasions from initial colonization through patch expansion are driven in part by mode of reproduction, i.e., sexual (seed) and asexual (clonal fragments and expansion) means. Expansion of existing patches—both rate and mode of spread into a matrix of varying conditions—is important for predicting potential invader impacts. In this study, we used fine-scale genetic assessments and remote sensing to describe both the rate and mode of expansion for 20 Phragmites australis patches in flooded and unflooded wetland units on the Great Salt Lake, UT. We found that the majority of Phragmites patch expansion occurred via clonal spread but we also documented instances of (potentially episodic) seedling recruitment. The mode of patch expansion, inferred from patch edge genet richness, was unrelated to flooding in the wetland unit in the preceding growing season. The rate of Phragmites patch expansion varied from 0.09 to 0.35 year−1 and was unrelated to the mode of spread. In six patches monitored across two years, monoclonal patches stayed monoclonal, whereas patches with higher genet richness had a marked increase in diversity in the second year. The findings of the present study suggest how this partially clonal species can exploit the benefits of both sexual (i.e., genetic recombination, widespread dispersal, colonization of new areas) and asexual reproduction (i.e., stability of established clones suited to local environmental conditions) to become one of the most successful wetland plant invaders. To control this species, both forms of reproduction need to be fully addressed through targeted management actions.


Clonality Common reed Genetic diversity Genet richness Invasive species Seedling recruitment Sexual reproduction 



We thank Shannon Clemens Syrstad and Omar Alminagorta for assistance with the map production, and Rebekah Downard and Ben Crabb for their help with leaf collection. We also thank Dr. Austin Jensen and the crew of the AggieAir Flying Circus Service Center at the Utah Water Research Laboratory for their work in acquiring the high-resolution aerial imagery used in this research. Funding was provided by the U.S. Geological Survey (104(b) Program).

Supplementary material

10530_2016_1125_MOESM1_ESM.docx (54 kb)
Supplementary material 1 (DOCX 54 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing Switzerland 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  • Karin M. Kettenring
    • 1
  • Karen E. Mock
    • 2
  • Bushra Zaman
    • 3
    • 4
  • Mac McKee
    • 3
  1. 1.Ecology Center and Department of Watershed SciencesUtah State UniversityLoganUSA
  2. 2.Ecology Center and Department of Wildland ResourcesUtah State UniversityLoganUSA
  3. 3.Utah Water Research Laboratory, Department of Civil EngineeringUtah State UniversityLoganUSA
  4. 4.Department of Civil EngineeringChitkara UniversitySolanIndia

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