Nitrogen enrichment has often been demonstrated to enhance the success of introduced plant species at the expense of native species. In the south Puget lowland prairies of Washington State, invasion by Scotch broom (Cytisus scoparius), a nitrogenfixing legume, is associated with elevated soil nitrogen levels. After broom removal, the higher soil nitrogen levels may have facilitated the secondary invasion of the prairies by numerous non-native species, particularly rhizomatous pasture grasses that can interfere with native plant seedling establishment. Numerous studies have shown the potential for carbon addition to immobilize soil nitrogen and reduce the success of introduced species relative to native species. We compared the available soil nitrate, the cover of native and introduced species between sugar-addition (1000 g C m-2) and control plots on two Puget lowland prairies. Sugar treatment initially immobilized nitrate and reduced cover of introduced species compared to that on control plots, but these effects dissipated within two years. Moreover, after four years, cover of introduced species, especially that of Agrostis capillaris and Hypochaeris radicata, had rebounded to become higher in sugar-addition than in control plots. In contrast, native species showed no negative responses to sugar treatment, suggesting that where sugar or other carbon treatment is economically feasible, combining carbon with the establishment of a high density of native species might limit the potential for introduced species to rebound.
For more articles from the Spring 2011 issue of Northwest Science please refer to the link below: