Graduate Thesis Or Dissertation

 

The roles of provenance and phylogeny in recruitment, community assembly, and species coexistence in invaded California grasslands Public Deposited

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  • Biological invasions pose one of the greatest threats to global biodiversity, but many naturalized invaders coexist with the native community. Community ecology theory provides a framework for understanding the mechanisms by which invaders might coexist with native species or exclude them from the community, thus informing management practices to maximize their effectiveness at conserving native biodiversity. Differences in functional or phylogenetic similarity of invaders to native residents can affect invasion success and the probability they will coexist with natives. For example, functionally dissimilar species may not compete strongly and distantly related species may share fewer natural enemies. Furthermore, environmental heterogeneity can promote species coexistence by providing the opportunity for a greater number of coexistence mechanisms to operate, thereby mitigating the potential for species invasions to lead to native extinction. My thesis examines how provenance (i.e., native origin) and phylogenetic relatedness of plant species affect community dynamics and species interactions in the invaded California grasslands. To do this I have assembled two unique community data sets, one spanning 48 years across a 1000-ha site and one spanning 7 years along a 500-km latitudinal transect. I show that native and exotic species abundance and diversity is highly variable in both time and space, but these provenance group responses are rarely negatively correlated (Chapter 2). Thus, exotic species do not generally appear to exclude natives from communities. Long-term abundance patterns further suggest that the system remains in a state of transience, and populations of several native species are declining at local scales (Chapter 3). Recruitment limitation due to the build-up of plant litter associated with exotic grasses may be generally responsible for these declines, but habitat suitability, land-use history, and community composition also affect native recruitment. Across the grasslands, disturbance and resource supply can interact to affect both species and phylogenetic diversity (Chapter 4). Disturbance in particular can increase diversity, likely by increasing opportunities for colonization by removing plant litter that previously limited recruitment. Both phylogeny and provenance can also affect biotic interactions, such as with communities of soil organisms (Chapter 5). Thus, I have shown that spatio-temporal heterogeneity, alterations to the biotic environment mediated by exotic invasion, and phylogenetic relationships among species are all important considerations when evaluating impacts of invasion and designing management strategies to conserve native biodiversity, especially in light of anthropogenic influence on disturbance regimes and resource supply.
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