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Effects of plant invasions on the species richness of abandoned agricultural land

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While exotic plant invasions are thought to lead to declines in native species, the long-term impacts of such invasions on community structure are poorly known. Furthermore, it is unknown how exotic plant invasions compare to invasions by native species. We present data from 40 yr of continuous vegetation sampling of 10 fields released from agriculture to examine the effects of invasions on species richness. The effects of both exotic and native species invasions on species richness were largely driven by variations among fields with most species not significantly affecting species richness. However, invasion and dominance by the exotics Agropyron repens, Lonicera japonica, Rosa multiflora, Trifolium pratense and the native Solidago canadensis were associated with declines in richness. Invasions by exotic and native species during old field succession have similar effects on species richness with dominance by species of either group being associated with loss of species richness. Exotic species invasions tended to have stronger effects on richness than native invasions. No evidence was found of residual effects of invasions because the impacts of the invasion disappeared with the decline of the invading population. When pooled across species, heavy invasion by exotic species resulted in greater loss of species richness than invasion by native species. Studies of invasion that utilize multiple sites must account for variability among sites. In our study, had we not included field as a factor we would have incorrectly concluded that invasion consistently resulted in changes in species richness.
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Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: December 1, 2001

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