eMonocot Cyperaceae

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Differences in wetland nitrogen cycling between the invasive grass Microstegium vimineum and a diverse plant community

Publication Type:Journal Article
Year of Publication:2010
Authors:DeMeester, J. E., Richter D. D.
Journal:Ecological Applications
Volume:20
Pagination:609-619
Keywords:CONSEQUENCES, denitrification, diversity, forests, IMPACT, invasive species, microstegium vimineum, new-jersey, nitrogen cycling, POACEAE, redox potential, riparian wetland, soil, southern piedmont, terrestrial ecosystems, united states
Abstract:

Wetlands are valuable for buffering waterways from excess nitrogen, yet these habitats are often dominated by invasive plant species. There is little understanding as to how various invasive species alter ecosystem nitrogen cycling, especially if one invasive overtakes an entire community of plants. Microstegium vimineum is a nonnative annual grass from Asia that is dominating riparian wetlands in the southeastern United States. To evaluate M. vimineum impacts on the N cycle, we used six paired plots, one invaded by M. vimineum and the other carefully weeded of M. vimineum; removal allowed the establishment of a diverse plant community consisting of Polygonum. Juncus, and Carex species. In the paired plots, we estimated (1) N uptake and accumulation in vegetation biomass, (2) rates of decomposition and N release from plant detritus, (3) mineral soil N mineralization and nitrification, (4) root zone redox potential, and (5) soil water concentrations of inorganic N. The M. vimineum community accumulated approximately half the annual N biomass of the diverse community, 5.04 vs. 9.36 g N.m(-2).yr(-1), respectively (P = 0.05). Decomposition and release of N from M. vimineum detritus was much less than in the diverse community, 1.19 vs. 5.24 g Significantly higher inorganic soil N persisted beneath M. vimineum during the dormant season, although rates of soil N mineralization estimated by in situ incubations were relatively similar in all plots. Micravtegium vimineum invasion thus appears to greatly diminish within-ecosystem circulation of N through the understory plants of these wetlands, whereas invasion effects on ecosystem N losses may derive more from enhanced denitrification (due to lower redox potential under M. vimineum plots) than due to leaching. Micravtegium vimineum's dominance and yet slower internal cycling of N are counterintuitive to conventional thinking that ecosystems with high N contain vegetation that quickly uptake and release N.

Scratchpads developed and conceived by (alphabetical): Ed Baker, Katherine Bouton Alice Heaton Dimitris Koureas, Laurence Livermore, Dave Roberts, Simon Rycroft, Ben Scott, Vince Smith