Exotic plant invasions of vernal pools in the Central Valley of California, USA
To better understand patterns of community invasibility, we examined exotic plant invasions along an environmental gradient found in vernal pools in the Central Valley of California. Specifically, we analysed the distribution and abundance of exotic plants in relation to pool size, seasonal inundation, soil and nutrient properties, the native plant community, and disturbance history. Location
We studied patterns of exotic plant invasions in a complex of natural and restored vernal pools at Travis Air Force Base near Fairfield, California. Methods
In thirty natural and thirty restored pools, we conducted field surveys to measure the distribution and abundance of exotic and native plants and several descriptors of the abiotic environment. We used multiple linear regressions to analyse exotic species richness and cover and the abundances of individual exotic species in relation to pool type, fire history, pool size, water depth, native plant cover, and six soil and nutrient properties. Results
Exotic species richness was greater in burned than unburned pools, and exotic plant cover was greater in natural than restored pools. Both exotic species richness and cover decreased with increasing water depth. Exotic species richness was not related to native plant cover, but exotic plant cover decreased with increasing native plant cover. Eighteen of the nineteen most common exotic species showed significant relationships with pool type (twelve species), water depth (eleven species), fire history (nine species), native plant cover (six species), and pool size (five species). Most species increased in abundance with decreasing water depth (nine species) or were more abundant in natural (eight species) or burned pools (six species). Main conclusions
These results suggest that both abiotic factors, especially those associated with seasonal inundation, and interactions with the native plant community play important roles in determining the invasibility of vernal pool plant communities. In particular, abiotic constraints may limit exotic plant invasions in more stressful environments, and interactions with the native plant community may limit invasions in more benign environments.