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Effects of microtopography and hydrology on phenology of an invasive herb

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Phenological traits may influence invasion success via effects on invasiveness of the colonizing species and invasibility of the receiving ecosystems. Many species exhibit substantial fine-scaled spatial variation in phenology and interannual differences in phenological timing in response to environmental variation. Yet describing and understanding this variation is limited by the availability of appropriate spatial and temporal datasets. Remote sensing provides such datasets, but has primarily been used to monitor broad-scale phenological patterns at coarse resolutions, necessarily missing fine spatial detail and intraspecies variation. We used hyperspectral remote sensing to characterize the spatial and temporal phenological variation of the invasive species Lepidium latifolium (perennial pepperweed) at two sites in California's San Francisco Bay/Sacramento–San Joaquin River Delta. Considerable phenological variation was detected: L. latifolium was simultaneously present in vegetative, early flowering, peak flowering, fruiting, and senescent stages in late June; the relative dominance and distribution of these stages varied interannually. Environmental determinants of phenology were investigated with variables derived from the hyperspectral image data, from a high resolution LiDAR (light detection and ranging) digital elevation model (DEM), and from local precipitation and streamflow data. Lepidium latifolium phenology was found to track water availability, and may also be influenced by intraspecific competition and edaphic stress. Lepidium latifolium has a unique phenology (summer flowering) relative to the communities it invades, which may allow invasion of an empty niche. Furthermore, many habitats are invaded by L. latifolium, which occurs in locally appropriate phenologies under the different environmental conditions. The environmental responsiveness of L. latifolium phenology may mediate the wide breadth of invasible habitats.
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Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: October 1, 2009

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