Shrub Invasion Decreases Diversity and Alters Community Stability in Northern Chihuahuan Desert Plant Communities

Department of Biology, University of New Mexico, Albuquerque, New Mexico, United States of America.
PLoS ONE (Impact Factor: 3.53). 06/2008; 3(6):e2332. DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0002332
Source: PubMed

ABSTRACT Global climate change is rapidly altering species range distributions and interactions within communities. As ranges expand, invading species change interactions in communities which may reduce stability, a mechanism known to affect biodiversity. In aridland ecosystems worldwide, the range of native shrubs is expanding as they invade and replace native grassland vegetation with significant consequences for biodiversity and ecosystem functioning.
We used two long-term data sets to determine the effects of shrub encroachment by Larrea tridentata on subdominant community composition and stability in formerly native perennial grassland dominated by Bouteloua eriopoda in New Mexico, USA.
Our results indicated that Larrea invasion decreased species richness during the last 100 years. We also found that over shorter temporal scales species-poor subdominant communities in areas invaded by Larrea were less stable (more variable in time) compared to species rich communities in grass-dominated vegetation. Compositional stability increased as cover of Bouteloua increased and decreased as cover of Larrea increased.
Changes in community stability due to altered interspecific interactions may be one mechanism by which biodiversity declines in grasslands following shrub invasion. As global warming increases, shrub encroachment into native grasslands worldwide will continue to alter species interactions and community stability both of which may lead to a decline in biodiversity.

Download full-text


Available from: Scott Collins, Jun 23, 2015
1 Follower
  • Source
    [Show abstract] [Hide abstract]
    ABSTRACT: The replacement of native C4-dominated grassland by C3-dominated shrubland is considered an ecological state transition where different ecological communities can exist under similar environmental conditions. These state transitions are occurring globally, and may be exacerbated by climate change. One consequence of the global increase in woody vegetation may be enhanced ecosystem carbon sequestration, although the responses of arid and semiarid ecosystems may be highly variable. During a drier than average period from 2007 to 2011 in the northern Chihuahuan Desert, we found established shrubland to sequester 49 g C m−2 yr−1 on average, while nearby native C4 grassland was a net source of 31 g C m−2 yr−1 over this same period. Differences in C exchange between these ecosystems were pronounced - grassland had similar productivity compared to shrubland but experienced higher C efflux via ecosystem respiration, while shrubland was a consistent C sink because of a longer growing season and lower ecosystem respiration. At daily timescales, rates of carbon exchange were more sensitive to soil moisture variation in grassland than shrubland, such that grassland had a net uptake of C when wet but lost C when dry. Thus, even under unfavorable, drier than average climate conditions, the state transition from grassland to shrubland resulted in a substantial increase in terrestrial C sequestration. These results illustrate the inherent tradeoffs in quantifying ecosystem services that result from ecological state transitions, such as shrub encroachment. In this case, the deleterious changes to ecosystem services often linked to grassland to shrubland state transitions may at least be partially offset by increased ecosystem carbon sequestration.
    Global Change Biology 09/2014; 21(3). DOI:10.1111/gcb.12743 · 8.22 Impact Factor
  • Source
  • Source
    [Show abstract] [Hide abstract]
    ABSTRACT: In many parts of the world the boundaries between grassland and shrubland biomes have changed substantially over the course of the last century. Many are projected to shift further from being grass-dominated to shrub-dominated by 2050 under global climate change and land use change projections. This paper used long-term surveys and repeat photography to assess vegetation change at the shrubland-grassland ecotone in semi-arid, South Africa. Changes in several climate variables as well as in the cover of grasses and dwarf shrubs over three time periods (1962, 1989 and 2009) were investigated at eight localities within a broad 500 km ecotone between the Grassland and Nama-karoo biomes. Results showed that for most sites grass cover has increased and that dwarf shrub cover has decreased over time. This contradicts earlier views which warned against the expansion of dwarf shrublands in response to over-grazing as well as more recent views which suggest that more mesic biomes in the Karoo Midlands will contract in response to climate-induced aridification. The decline in stocking densities and more conservation-friendly land management practices together with an increase in large wet events in the Nama-karoo biome may have contributed to the increase in grass cover.
    Journal of Arid Environments 05/2014; 104:43–51. DOI:10.1016/j.jaridenv.2014.01.011 · 1.82 Impact Factor