Plant and Soil

, Volume 367, Issue 1–2, pp 339–346 | Cite as

Decoupling litter barrier and soil moisture influences on the establishment of an invasive grass

  • Robert J. WarrenII
  • Volker Bahn
  • Mark A. Bradford
Regular Article


Background and aims

Through recruitment, plants establish in novel environments. Recruitment also is the stage where plants undergo the highest mortality. We investigate the recruitment niche for Microstegium vimineum, an annual grass from East Asia spreading throughout eastern North American forests.


Current observational and greenhouse research indicates that M. vimineum recruitment may be inhibited by leaf litter and promoted by soil moisture; we use field studies to experimentally test how these factors influence M. vimineum germination, seedling survival and reproduction. Specifically, we introduce M. vimineum seeds into forest microhabitats with experimentally varied levels of soil moisture and leaf litter.


Soil moisture increases M. vimineum germination regardless of leaf litter thickness and ameliorates seedling mortality in deep leaf litter. Seed production per m2 increases with watering, reflecting higher germination and survival, whereas per capita seed production increases with leaf litter thickness, reflecting density-dependent limits on seed production.


The interactive effects of varied levels of soil moisture and leaf litter thickness on key M. vimineum life history stages highlight the need to consider multiple drivers, such as rainfall and local forest disturbance, when assessing how soil properties influence the establishment of invasive plants.


Exotic species Japanese stiltgrass Microstegium vimineum Plant invasion Propagule pressure Understory 

Supplementary material

11104_2012_1477_Fig5_ESM.jpg (16 kb)

(JPEG 15 kb)

11104_2012_1477_MOESM1_ESM.tif (152 kb)
High Resolution (TIFF 152 kb)
11104_2012_1477_MOESM2_ESM.xlsx (12 kb)
ESM 2AIC values (and ΔAIC) for random effects (blockl, diffuse light, temperature and soil moisture) in generalized linear mixed models. (XLSX 12 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  • Robert J. WarrenII
    • 1
    • 3
  • Volker Bahn
    • 2
  • Mark A. Bradford
    • 3
  1. 1.Department of BiologyBuffalo State CollegeBuffaloUSA
  2. 2.Department of Biological SciencesWright State UniversityDaytonUSA
  3. 3.School of Forestry and Environmental StudiesYale UniversityNew HavenUSA

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