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  1. Free, publicly-accessible full text available June 1, 2024
  2. Adams, Henry (Ed.)

    The ubiquity of woody plant expansion across many rangelands globally has led to the hypothesis that the global rise in atmospheric carbon dioxide concentration ([CO2]) is a global driver facilitating C3 woody plant expansion. Increasing [CO2] also influences precipitation patterns seasonally and across the landscape, which often results in the prevalence of drought in rangelands. To test the potential for [CO2] to facilitate woody plant growth, we conducted a greenhouse study for 150 days to measure CO2 effects on juveniles from four woody species (Cornus drummondii C.A. Mey., Rhus glabra L., Gleditsia triacanthos L., Juniperus osteosperma Torr.) that are actively expanding into rangelands of North America. We assessed chronic water-stress (nested within CO2 treatments) and its interaction with elevated [CO2] (800 p.p.m.) on plant growth physiology for 84 days. We measured leaf-level gas exchange, tissue-specific starch concentrations and biomass. We found that elevated [CO2] increased photosynthetic rates, intrinsic water-use efficiencies and leaf starch concentrations in all woody species but at different rates and concentrations. Elevated [CO2] increased leaf starch levels for C. drummondii, G. triacanthos, J. osteosperma and R. glabra by 90, 39, 68 and 41%, respectively. We also observed that elevated [CO2] ameliorated the physiological effects of chronic water stress for all our juvenile woody species within this study. Elevated [CO2] diminished the impact of water stress on the juvenile plants, potentially alleviating an abiotic limitation to woody plant establishment in rangelands, thus facilitating the expansion of woody plants in the future.

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  3. Abstract Aim

    Native biodiversity is threatened by the spread of non‐native invasive species. Many studies demonstrate that invasions reduce local biodiversity but we lack an understanding of how impacts vary across environments at the macroscale. Using ~11,500 vegetation surveys from ecosystems across the United States, we quantified how the relationship between non‐native plant cover and native plant diversity varied across different compositions of invading plants (measured by non‐native plant richness and evenness) and environmental contexts (measured by productivity and human activity).


    Continental United States.

    Time Period

    Surveys from 1990s‐present.

    Major Taxa Studied

    Terrestrial plant communities.


    We fit mixed effects models to understand how native plant richness, diversity and evenness varied with non‐native cover. We tested how this relationship varied when non‐native cover interacted with non‐native plant richness and evenness, and with productivity and human activity.


    Across the United States, communities with greater cover of non‐native plants had lower native plant richness and diversity but higher evenness, suggesting rare native plants can be lost while dominant plants decline in abundance. The relationship between non‐native cover and native community diversity varied with non‐native plant richness and evenness but was not associated with productivity and human activity. Negative associations were strongest in areas with low non‐native richness and evenness, characterizing plant communities that were invaded by a dominant non‐native plant.

    Main Conclusions

    Non‐native plant cover provides a first approximation of invasion impacts on native community diversity, but the magnitude of impact depended on non‐native plant richness and evenness. Relationships between non‐native cover and native diversity were consistent in strength across continental scale gradients of productivity and human activity. Therefore, at the macroscale, invasive plant impacts on native plant communities likely depend more on the characteristics of the invading plants, that is the presence of a dominant invader, than on the environmental context.

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  4. Abstract

    The effects of climate change on plants and ecosystems are mediated by plant hydraulic traits, including interspecific and intraspecific variability of trait phenotypes. Yet, integrative and realistic studies of hydraulic traits and climate change are rare. In a semiarid grassland, we assessed the response of several plant hydraulic traits to elevated CO2(+200 ppm) and warming (+1.5 to 3°C; day to night). For leaves of five dominant species (three graminoids and two forbs), and in replicated plots exposed to 7 years of elevated CO2, warming, or ambient climate, we measured: stomatal density and size, xylem vessel size, turgor loss point, and water potential (pre‐dawn). Interspecific differences in hydraulic traits were larger than intraspecific shifts induced by elevated CO2and/or warming. Effects of elevated CO2were greater than effects of warming, and interactions between treatments were weak or not detected. The forbs showed little phenotypic plasticity. The graminoids had leaf water potentials and turgor loss points that were 10% to 50% less negative under elevated CO2; thus, climate change might cause these species to adjust their drought resistance strategy away from tolerance and toward avoidance. The C4 grass also reduced allocation of leaf area to stomata under elevated CO2, which helps explain observations of higher soil moisture. The shifts in hydraulic traits under elevated CO2were not, however, simply due to higher soil moisture. Integration of our results with others' indicates that common species in this grassland are more likely to adjust stomatal aperture in response to near‐term climate change, rather than anatomical traits; this contrasts with apparent effects of changing CO2on plant anatomy over evolutionary time. Future studies should assess how plant responses to drought may be constrained by the apparent shift from tolerance (via low turgor loss point) to avoidance (via stomatal regulation and/or access to deeper soil moisture).

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  5. Abstract

    Invasive species science has focused heavily on the invasive agent. However, management to protect native species also requires a proactive approach focused on resident communities and the features affecting their vulnerability to invasion impacts. Vulnerability is likely the result of factors acting across spatial scales, from local to regional, and it is the combined effects of these factors that will determine the magnitude of vulnerability. Here, we introduce an analytical framework that quantifies the scale‐dependent impact of biological invasions on native richness from the shape of the native species–area relationship (SAR). We leveraged newly available, biogeographically extensive vegetation data from the U.S. National Ecological Observatory Network to assess plant community vulnerability to invasion impact as a function of factors acting across scales. We analyzed more than 1000 SARs widely distributed across the USA along environmental gradients and under different levels of non‐native plant cover. Decreases in native richness were consistently associated with non‐native species cover, but native richness was compromised only at relatively high levels of non‐native cover. After accounting for variation in baseline ecosystem diversity, net primary productivity, and human modification, ecoregions that were colder and wetter were most vulnerable to losses of native plant species at the local level, while warmer and wetter areas were most susceptible at the landscape level. We also document how the combined effects of cross‐scale factors result in a heterogeneous spatial pattern of vulnerability. This pattern could not be predicted by analyses at any single scale, underscoring the importance of accounting for factors acting across scales. Simultaneously assessing differences in vulnerability between distinct plant communities at local, landscape, and regional scales provided outputs that can be used to inform policy and management aimed at reducing vulnerability to the impact of plant invasions.

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  6. Abstract

    Increased nutrient inputs due to anthropogenic activity are expected to increase primary productivity across terrestrial ecosystems, but changes in allocation aboveground versus belowground with nutrient addition have different implications for soil carbon (C) storage. Thus, given that roots are major contributors to soil C storage, understanding belowground net primary productivity (BNPP) and biomass responses to changes in nutrient availability is essential to predicting carbon–climate feedbacks in the context of interacting global environmental changes. To address this knowledge gap, we tested whether a decade of nitrogen (N) and phosphorus (P) fertilization consistently influenced aboveground and belowground biomass and productivity at nine grassland sites spanning a wide range of climatic and edaphic conditions in the continental United States. Fertilization effects were strong aboveground, with both N and P addition stimulating aboveground biomass at nearly all sites (by 30% and 36%, respectively, on average). P addition consistently increased root production (by 15% on average), whereas other belowground responses to fertilization were more variable, ranging from positive to negative across sites. Site‐specific responses to P were not predicted by the measured covariates. Atmospheric N deposition mediated the effect of N fertilization on root biomass and turnover. Specifically, atmospheric N deposition was positively correlated with root turnover rates, and this relationship was amplified with N addition. Nitrogen addition increased root biomass at sites with low N deposition but decreased it at sites with high N deposition. Overall, these results suggest that the effects of nutrient supply on belowground plant properties are context dependent, particularly with regard to background N supply rates, demonstrating that site conditions must be considered when predicting how grassland ecosystems will respond to increased nutrient loading from anthropogenic activity.

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