Journal or Book Title
Non-native species are hypothesized to decrease native species establishment and cover crops are hypothesized to decrease non-native species abundance. Although many studies have compared invaded to non-invaded habitats, relatively few studies have experimentally added non-native species to directly examine their effects. In a greenhouse mesocosm experiment, we tested the effects of non-native forbs (Melilotus officinalis, Verbascum thapsus, and Lespedeza cuneata), a proposed C3 grass cover crop (Pascopyrum smithii), and a commonly seeded non-native C3 grass (Bromus inermis) on the establishment of target native C4 prairie grass species. All treatments contained the same seed density of target C4 species and were begun on bare soil collected from the field. The legume M. officinalis strongly decreased the abundance of all other species, species diversity, and light and soil moisture levels. Surprisingly, M. officinalis took up relatively large amounts of labeled nitrogen (15N) from the soil early in its development, but M. officinalis fixed nitrogen, thus increasing nitrogen in biomass nearly fivefold by the end of the study. We found few effects of either C3 grass species on non-native forbs or C4 target species, but seeded P. smithii did increase species diversity. Non-native plants therefore impeded native C4 grass establishment through long-lasting effects of target species seedbank depletion (death of most target seedlings) and altered nutrient availability. The effects of M. officinalis were not reduced by the presence of a cover crop.
Works produced by employees of the U.S. Government as part of their official duties are not copyrighted within the U.S. The content of this document is not copyrighted.
Dickson, Timothy L.; Wilsey, Brian J.; Busby, Ryan R.; and Gebhart, Dick L., "Melilotus officinalis (Yellow Sweetclover) Causes Large Changes in Community and Ecosystem Processes in Both the Presence and Absence of a Cover Crop" (2010). Ecology, Evolution and Organismal Biology Publications. 97.