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Creators/Authors contains: "LaForgia, Marina L."

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  1. Abstract

    Invasive species may act as a functional filter on native communities by differentially affecting species with different trait values. Across environments, invasive plants typically display traits associated with high resource acquisition and fast growth. Conversely, native plants, especially those in water-limited environments, tend to adopt one of two functional strategies: fast growth during high resource availability to avoid stress (resource-acquisitive), or slow growth during resource-poor conditions to tolerate stress (resource-conservative). While invasive competition can be a strong filter on these groups, many invaders also alter the structure of native communities through their accumulation of litter. How fast-growing invaders with litter shift native functional communities remains unknown. To elucidate these functional shifts, I manipulated invasive annual grasses and their litter in an annual grassland and followed the demographic rates of six native annual forb species that varied in their functional strategy. Live grass competition alone decreased per capita growth rates of resource-acquisitive natives and had no effect on resource-conservative natives. The presence of litter, however, decreased growth rates in both functional types of natives, with stronger declines in resource-acquisitive species through differential effects on seed set and germination. Invaders in this system thus create an unfavorable environment for natives through litter, limiting the capacity of both resource-acquisitive and resource-conservative native forbs to maintain high population growth. These findings suggest that grass invasions have the potential to dramatically shift the functional composition of native communities through the time-lagged effects of their litter.

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  2. Abstract

    Climate forecasts agree that increased variability and extremes will tend to reduce the availability of water in many terrestrial ecosystems. Increasingly severe droughts may be exacerbated both by warmer temperatures and by the relative unavailability of water that arrives in more sporadic and intense rainfall events. Using long‐term data and an experimental water manipulation, we examined the resilience of a heterogeneous annual grassland community to a prolonged series of dry winters that led to a decline in plant species richness (2000–2014), followed by a near‐record wet winter (2016–2017), a climatic sequence that broadly resembles the predicted future in its high variability. In our 80, 5‐m2observational plots, species richness did not recover in response to the wet winter, and the positive relationship of richness to annual winter rainfall thus showed a significant weakening trend over the 18‐year time period. In experiments on 100, 1‐m2plots, wintertime water supplementation increased and drought shelters decreased the seedling survival and final individual biomass of native annual forbs, the main functional group contributing to the observed long‐term decline in richness. Water supplementation also increased the total cover of native annual forbs, but only increased richness within nested subplots to which seeds were also added. We conclude that prolonged dry winters, by increasing seedling mortality and reducing growth of native forbs, may have diminished the seedbank and thus the recovery potential of diversity in this community. However, the wet winter and the watering treatment did cause recovery of the community mean values of a key functional trait (specific leaf area, an indicator of drought intolerance), suggesting that some aggregate community properties may be stabilized by functional redundancy among species.

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