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Non-native plant cover and functional trait composition of urban temperate grasslands in relation to local- and landscape-scale road density

Abstract

Globally, many natural grasslands are becoming increasingly urbanised, with non-native plants invading as local and regional environmental attributes are altered. Using multiple linear regression models, we examined the functional trait composition of non-native plants in 69 native urban grasslands in Melbourne, Australia, against the spatial attributes of remnant patches and the surrounding road network at multiple spatial scales. We predicted that (1) urbanisation favours non-native plants with evolved characteristics conferring resistance to urban environments, (2) high road density in the immediate vicinity of remnants drives high non-native functional diversity, and (3) non-native plants that spread and become abundant do so through an investment in competitive traits. Non-native plants contributed to 31% of total grassland cover, with regionally widespread species dominant within sites. Non-native perennial grass cover, rather than annual grass cover, was positively associated with road density across the urban landscape, and community-weighted Specific Leaf Area was negatively associated with road density. At local scales, non-native plant functional diversity was positively associated with road density in the immediate vicinity of grasslands. Urbanisation favoured non-native plants invested in persistence over resource acquisition, potentially in response to the urban climate and declines in fire frequency. Re-introducing historic fire regimes may therefore have the potential to be a key strategy in reducing competition from non-native plants. High non-native functional diversity in areas of high local road density was the expected response to high propagule pressure. Urban planning that protects grasslands from road encroachment may therefore reduce invasion.

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Acknowledgements

Ian Lunt and Dave Kendal assisted in designing field survey methods. Alison Farrar assisted with ArcGIS analysis, and along with Dave Kendal, Lilian Pearce and Kate Griffiths, aided with field work. Land managers at Parks Victoria, Brimbank City Council, Hume City Council, City of Melton, Friends of Iramoo Wildflower Reserve, Hobson’s Bay City Council, Moreland City Council, City of Darebin and City of Whittlesea provided us with access to grassland sites. Functional trait data was provided through the TRY database. We thank all contributors to the database that provided us with data: Bernard Amiaud, Owen Atkin, Benjamin Blonder, Giandiego Campetella, Bruno Cerabolini, Johannes Cornelissen, Joseph Craine, Franciska De Vries, John Dickie, Alastair Fitter, Estelle Forey, Gregoire Freschet, Eric Garnier, Walton Green, Sandy Harrison, Thomas Hickler, Robert Jackson, Jens Kattge, Michael Kleyer, Ingolf Kühn, Daniel Laughlin, Michelle Leishman, Frederique Louault, Peter Manning, Ruben Milla, Marco Moretti, Jenny Ordonez, Juli Pausas, Begoña Peco, Charles Price, Peter Reich, Christine Roemermann, Brody Sandel, Brandon Schamp, Bill Shipley, Andrew Siefert, Marko Spasojevic, Fernando Valladares, Evan Weiher, Christian Wirth and Ian Wright. This research was generously funded by the Myer Foundation. B.J.Z was funded by an Australian Postgraduate Research Award.

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Correspondence to Ben J. Zeeman.

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Zeeman, B.J., Minden, V. & Morgan, J.W. Non-native plant cover and functional trait composition of urban temperate grasslands in relation to local- and landscape-scale road density. Biol Invasions 20, 3025–3036 (2018). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10530-018-1756-6

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Keywords

  • Alien plants
  • Dispersal
  • Functional diversity
  • Plant functional traits
  • Specific leaf area (SLA)
  • Urban heat island effect