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IMPLICATIONS OF PLANT DIVERSITY AND SOIL CHEMICAL PROPERTIES
FOR COGONGRASS (Imperata cylindrica) INVASION IN NORTHWEST FLORIDA
ALEXANDRA R. COLLINS
A THESIS PRESENTED TO THE GRADUATE SCHOOL
OF THE UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA IN PARTIAL FULFILLMENT
OF THE REQUIREMENTS FOR THE DEGREE OF
MASTER OF SCIENCE
UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA
Alexandra R. Collins
I dedicate this thesis to my grandfather, Edwin Frank Collins.
I would like to sincerely thank my advisor and committee chair, Dr. Shibu Jose, for
his numerous ideas and guidance throughout my research. I wish to express my sincere
appreciation to my committee members, Drs. Jack Putz, Barry Brecke, Deborah Miller
and Greg MacDonald, who despite being separated geographically have provided me
with valuable insight into the field of biological invasions and community ecology.
I would like to thank my parents, Holly Nicol and Paul Collins, for being constant
sources of inspiration throughout my educational career. Their thoughtful phone calls,
cards and words of wisdom have been a wonderful source of encouragement throughout
my time at the University of Florida. I would also like to thank my sweet little dog Lizzie
whose picture next to my computer was a welcome distraction while writing this thesis.
I am grateful to several members of the West Florida Research and Education
Center: Doug Hatfield and Joe Nelson for their constant help on the farm, Leah McCue
for all of her help in the field and being a great friend, Rex Lawson for valuable advice
and lab space and Jeremy Monnot and Cathy Hardin for their help in the field and
willingness to work at all hours and in all weather conditions. I am sincerely thankful to
Craig Ramsey for his insight and support throughout my thesis. Staff at Blackwater River
State Forest, notably Tom Errington and Tom Cathy, and the staff at International Paper
were incredibly helpful in finding field sites to carry out this research.
Friends and fellow graduate students were tremendous sources of encouragement
and inspiration as I completed my thesis. I am sincerely grateful to my Milton crew
Pedram Daneshgar, Nicholas Pool, Kara Napolitano, Eric Holzmueller, Josiah Raymer
and Jeff Kelly for some wonderful memories and lasting friendships. Fellow graduate and
undergraduate students Julie Clingerman, Trina Hofreiter, Cara Rockwell, Keila Altidor
and David Suza have been tremendously supportive throughout my time at the University
of Florida. I would also like to thank the University of Florida Gator Synchro Team, most
notably Rebecca Guerra, Katie Rozofsky, Crystal Amsinger, Jennifer Amsinger, Jamie
Freshour, Meredith Cooke, Megan Becker, Maggie Baker, Stephanie Joyce, Nique Long,
Nikki Berlin and Betsy Caza, for their constant support in all aspects of my life and
providing me with memories that will last forever. Finally, I could not have completed
this thesis without constant support and cheerleading from my friends back at home,
Katie Thomas, Meghan McClenaghan, Sarah Ueland and Shay Wallin.
TABLE OF CONTENTS
A C K N O W L E D G M E N T S ................................................................................................. iv
LIST OF TABLES .................................................... ......... .............. viii
LIST OF FIGURES ......... ............................... ........ ............ ix
A B STR A C T ................................................. ..................................... .. x
1 IN TR OD U CTION ............................................... .. ......................... ..
Exotic Invasive Plants ............................................... .... ...... .............. .
D iversity-Invasibility H ypothesis........................................... .......................... 4
F functional D diversity ................... ...... ............................................ ......... .... .6
Cogongrass Taxonomy and Distribution ....................................... ...............7
C ogongrass B iology ........... ...... ............................................ .............. ......... .... .8
E ecological Im portance ........................................................................... 10
Soil Ecology..................................... .................................. ............... 11
R research H ypothesis............ .......................................................... ........ .. .....12
2 IMPLICATIONS OF SPECIES RICHNESS AND FUNCTIONAL DIVERSITY
ON COGONGRASS INVASION ......................................................... ....... ........ 16
Introduction..................................... .................................. ........... 16
M e th o d s ..............................................................................2 0
R ate of Cogongrass Invasion......................................... .......................... 20
V egetation Sam pling ................................................... .. ........ ...... ............2 1
Statistical A analysis .......................... .......... ................ ....... 2 1
R e su lts ...........................................................................................2 2
D isc u ssio n ............................................................................................................. 2 3
C o n c lu sio n s........................................................................................................... 2 6
3 COGONGRASS INVASION ALTERS SOIL CHEMICAL PROPERTIES OF
NATURAL AND PLANTED FORESTLANDS ............... .................. .............44
In tro d u ctio n ............ ....................................................... ................ 4 4
M materials and M methods ....................................................................... ..................4 8
S o il S am p lin g .................................................................................... ............... 4 8
Statistical A n aly sis............ ..... ........................................................ .. ..... .. ... .... 4 9
R e su lts ......... ......... ........ ......... ........................................................4 9
Soil O rganic M atter .................. .......... ............ .... .. .. ................. 49
N u trie n t P o o l ................................................................................................. 4 9
S o il p H ........................................................... 5 0
D isc u ssio n ............................................................................................................. 5 0
C o n c lu sio n s........................................................................................................... 5 4
4 SUMMARY AND CONCLUSIONS .............................................................. 59
A SO IL TE X U TR E D A T A ...................................................................................... 64
B FUNCTIONAL RICHNESS DATA FOR LOGGED AND UNLOGGED SITE......66
L IST O F R E F E R E N C E S ..................... ................................................................... 67
B IO G R A PH IC A L SK E T C H ....................................................................................... 77
LIST OF TABLES
2-1 Site descriptions of cogongrass patches used at International Paper (logged
site) and Blackwater River State Forest (unlogged site).............................. ....28
2-2 Species found at logged and unlogged ........................................ ...............29
2-3 Area advanced in 2 six-month intervals (mean + 1 SE)........................................33
2-4 Average values for the three independent continuous variables at both the
logged and unlogged site ......................................................... ............... 34
2-5 Stepwise multiple linear regression summary table of results for the 3
independent variables (total percent cover, species richness, and functional
richness) with cogongrass annual spread as the response for the logged site
and unlogged site com bined ........................................................ ............. 35
2-6 Pearsons coefficient correlation of the three independent variables (total
percent cover, species richness and functional diversity) for the logged site
and unlogged site combined. None of the correlations were significant. ...............36
3-1 Mean soil pH in invaded and control patches for soil surveys in spring 2004
and fall 2004 for the logged and unlogged sites combined ..................................56
A-1 Soil texture data from sites used at both clearcut sites at International Paper
(logged) and sandhill sites at Blackwater River State Forest (unlogged) ...............64
LIST OF FIGURES
1-1 The global distribution of Imperata cylindrica....... .. ... ...................................... 14
1-2 The general distribution of Imperata cylindrica in the United States................... 15
2-1 Aerial photograph of cogongrass invasion at the logged site taken in 2003.
Light green patches are cogongrass invaded areas............................................ 37
2-2 Photograph of cogongrass extensive rhizome network. Photograph was taken
at th e lo g g ed site ................................................. ................ 3 8
2-3 Photograph of a cogongrass patch used at the logged site. Flags were used to
mark the cogongrass edge at each six-month interval............... ...............39
2-4 Diagram of sampling design for plots at both sites. Twenty 4 m x 1 m plots
(bold boundary) were established on the perimeter of each cogongrass patch........40
2-5 Relationship of native plant species richness and area advanced by cogongrass
over the period of one year for each patch. ....................................................... 41
2-6 Relationship of native plant functional richness and area advanced by
cogongrass over the period of one year for each patch ........................................ 42
2-7 Relationship of percent native ground cover and area advanced by cogongrass
over the period of one year for each patch. ...................................... ...............43
3-1 Mean concentrations (Mean + 1 SE) of available NO3-N for the logged (n=4)
and unlogged (n=4) sites for the summer 2004 soil survey.. ................................57
3-2 Mean concentrations (Mean + 1 SE) of available P, K, and Mg (n = 8) for the
logged and unlogged sites for the spring and fall 2004......................................... 58
B-l Average percent cover for each functional group for each functional richness
level at the logged site. Data was compiled from all plots sampled (n= 18). ........66
B-2 Average percent cover for each functional group for each functional richness
level at the unlogged site. Data was compiled from all plots sampled (n=118). ....66
Abstract of Thesis Presented to the Graduate School
of the University of Florida in Partial Fulfillment of the
Requirements for the Degree of Master of Science
IMPLICATIONS OF PLANT DIVERSITY AND SOIL CHEMICAL PROPERTIES
FOR COGONGRASS (Imperata cylindrica) INVASION IN NORTHWEST
Alexandra R. Collins
Chair: Shibu Jose
Major Department: Forest Resources and Conservation
In the 1950s Charles Elton hypothesized that more diverse communities should be
less susceptible to invasion by exotic species (biodiversity-invasibility hypothesis). The
biodiversity-invasibility hypothesis postulates that species-rich communities are less
vulnerable to invasion because vacant niches are less common and the intensity of
interspecific competition is more severe.
Field studies were conducted at two sites, a logged site and an unlogged site in
Santa Rosa County, Florida, U.S.A, to test Elton's hypothesis using cogongrass
(Imperata cylindrica), a nonindigenous grass invading large areas of the Southeastern
United States. The effects of cogongrass invasion on soil chemical properties were also
investigated. The logged site, owned by International Paper Company, was under 17-
year-old loblolly pine prior to clear cutting. The unlogged site, a longleaf pine forest, was
at the Blackwater River State Forest. Both the logged site and unlogged site showed no
significant relationship between the rate of cogongrass spread and native plant species
richness, functional richness, and cover of the invaded community. Increased species or
functional richness may increase the use of resources; however, the extensive
rhizome/root network possessed by cogongrass and its ability to thrive under shade may
allow for its persistence in a diverse community. Analysis of soil samples, taken pair wise
(cogongrass invaded and non-invaded areas) at both sites, showed significant differences
in soil NO3-N, K+ and pH. Significantly lower levels ofNOs3-N and K+ were observed in
cogongrass patches compared to the surrounding native vegetation. Lower levels of these
nutrients may be attributed to the extreme ability of cogongrass to extract available
resources from the area in which it is invading. The soil of the cogongrass patch was
more acidic than that of the surrounding native vegetation. Although we do not have
direct evidence of any mechanisms responsible for lowering soil pH in cogongrass
invaded patches, allelopathy or the preferential uptake of ammonium seems to be
The results from both the logged and unlogged sites do not support the general
hypothesis of Elton that invasion resistance and compositional stability increase with
diversity. Based on the results of all of the research reported within, biodiversity does not
appear to be an important factor for cogongrass invasion in Northwest Florida. Extrinsic
factors in this study prevent the ability to draw a defined causal relationship between
native plant diversity and invasibility. Underlying reasons for why no relationship was
observed may be simply due to the tremendous competitive ability of cogongrass or the
narrow range of species richness, functional richness and cover observed in our study.
The invasion of habitats by non-native species is a global problem with serious
consequences for ecological, economic and social systems (Pimental et al. 2000).
Millions of acres of forestland in the Southeastern United States are increasingly being
occupied by alien invasive plants, threatening their ecological and economic integrity.
Empirical and theoretical studies of the mechanism of invasions have led to the
hypothesis that high diversity may increase the resistance of a community to invasion
(Elton 1958; Prieur-Richard et al. 2000). This thesis examines the ecological implications
of species diversity on Imperata cylindrica (hereafter referred to as cogongrass) invasion
in Northwest Florida. Cogongrass is an exotic non-native species and is considered to be
one of the ten most troublesome weeds in the world (MacDonald 2004).
Exotic Invasive Plants
Invasive species pose many threats to native species in ecosystems worldwide.
Non-indigenous harmful plants hinder the maintenance and restoration of natural
ecosystems (Mack et al. 2000). Most non-indigenous invasive plants are undesirable in
native communities because they exclude native plants, form monocultures and change
ecosystem functions. Ecosystem functions may include but are not limited to
biogeochemical activities, community respiration, nutrient cycling, nutrient retention, and
decomposition. The invasion of many exotic plant species results in native species
decline and ecosystem degradation (Wilcove and Chen 1998).
The globalization of earth's biota is transforming local and regional floras and
faunas. Both intentional and accidental introductions of many species are altering
community composition and ecology of long-established biological communities (Davis
2003). Although not all introduced plants become invasive, many plants may escape
cultivation and become agricultural pests, infest lawns as weeds, displace native plant
species, reduce wildlife habitat, and alter ecosystem processes. The characteristics and
effects of exotic invasive species have received increasing attention from ecologists,
conservationists and land managers. There has been an increase in the level of non-native
plant species colonized natural areas, potentially threatening diversity and interactions of
native species, have been recognized and have become the subject of ecological dialogue
and experimentation. The total impact of an invader is argued to include three
fundamental dimensions: range, abundance and the per-capita or per-biomass effect of
the invader in the invaded community (Parker et al. 1999). The actual invasion of an
environment by new species is said to be influenced by an additional three factors: the
number of propagules entering the new environment propagulee pressure), the
characteristics of the new species, and the susceptibility of the environment to invasion
by new species (invasibility) (Lonsdale 1999; Davis et al. 2000). The most consistent
correlates of invasibility are disturbance and propagule supply. Disturbances have been
shown to favor plant invasions (Prieur-Richard and Lavorel 2000). Disturbances
simultaneously increase resource availability and decrease competition from resident
species. Frequent disturbance facilitates the colonization of ruderal species that may have
greater competitive abilities than natives. Cogongrass seedlings are described as R-
strategists (ruderal) (Grime 1977) and are able to invade open patches in disturbed
habitats. The amount of bare ground created by soil disturbances is correlated with
abundances of invading species (Burke and Grime 1996).
Invasibility is an emergent property of an environment, the outcome of several
factors, including the region's climate, the environment's disturbance regime, and the
competitive abilities of the resident species (Lonsdale 1999). For example, modifications
of fire regimes favor the recruitment of exotics with more tolerant life histories than
many natives, and also provide both bare ground and nutrient pulses (D'Antonio and
Vitousek 1992). Invasions can affect native ecosystems by changing fuel properties,
which can in turn affect fire behavior and, ultimately, alter fire regime characteristics
such as frequency, intensity, extent, type, and seasonality of fire (Brooks et al. 2004).
Characteristics of successful invaders often include: broad ecological requirements
and tolerances, sometimes reflected in large geographical ranges (Rejmanek 1996), r-
selected life histories (Tominaga 2003); associations with disturbed or anthropogenic
habitats; and origins from large continents with diverse biota (Elton 1958).
Characteristics of invaded environments often include: geographical and historical
isolation; low diversity of native species (Elton 1958); high levels of natural disturbance
or human activities; and absence of co-adapted enemies, including competitors,
predators, herbivores, parasites and diseases (Davis et al. 2000). One of the few
generalizations that can be made about invasive species is that the greatest impacts often
occur when a nonindigenous species performs an entirely novel function in the recipient
community (Simberloff 1991). Although many hypotheses have been proposed to explain
why some communities are more susceptible to invasion than others, results from field
studies have been inconsistent and no general theory of community invasibility has yet
emerged (Davis et al. 2000).
The question as to why some ecosystems are more vulnerable to invasion than
others is under constant debate. There are numerous factors that influence a community's
susceptibility to invasion including the composition and diversity of resident species. One
of the earliest theories relating biodiversity and invasibility was Elton's hypothesis,
which states that lower resident diversity favors invasion (diversity-invasibility
hypothesis; Elton 1958). Empirical studies have shown conflicting patterns of
relationship between species diversity of resident plant communities and their invasibility
by external species.Results have shown positive (Palmer and Maurer 1997; Levine et al
2002), negative (Tilman 1997; Hector et al. 2001; Kennedy et al. 2002) and no
relationships (Lavorel et al. 1999) between native plant species diversity and invasibility.
Fluctuations in resource availability because of disturbance, herbivory and eutrophication
were identified as key factors controlling community invasibility by nonindigenous plants
(Davis et al. 2000). The most likely explanation for the conflicting results is the
covariance between extrinsic factors (i.e., disturbance, grazing, nutrient levels, biomass
and resident diversity) in observational studies (Naeem et al. 2000).
It is hypothesized that more diverse communities use resources more completely
and are therefore more resistant to invasion (Tilman 1999). Resource-use
complementarity is often proposed as the mechanism responsible for the negative impact
of diversity on invasibility. Invasibility of a site should depend on the availability of the
resources that limit the growth of the invading species. Because levels of limiting
resource are generally lower in more diverse ecosystems within the same habitat (Tilman
et al. 1996), fewer potential invaders should be able to become established in more
diverse ecosystems. Resource partitioning also leads to fewer resources (mainly light and
nutrients) being made available for invaders. Biotic resistance consists of negative
impacts by the resident community on the invading organism, usually through predation
or competition, and is often said to increase with species richness of the recipient
community (Simberloff 1986). Elevated resource levels favor fast-growing species and
can lead to invasion or dominance of one species (Huenneke et al. 1990).
It is also hypothesized that diverse communities are more likely to contain
competitors that can successfully outcompete the exotic (Pimm 1991). Conventional
wisdom was that species-rich communities were less invasible because vacant niches
were less common and the intensity of interspecific competition was more severe
(Robinson et al. 1995). In particular, species-packing models (e.g., MacArthur 1970)
predict that niche space becomes progressively more utilized as more species are added
to a community, leaving fewer opportunities for additional species to invade (Hector et
Recent studies have begun to investigate how the scale on which an experiment is
conducted may contribute to either a negative or a positive relationship between
biodiversity and invasibility. The diversity-invasibility hypothesis is often supported by
both theory and experimental studies conducted at small scales (Kennedy et al. 2002).
However, there is also evidence for a positive relationship when measured at regional
scales (Stohlgren et al. 1999). Brown and Peet (2003) found a positive relationship
between species diversity and exotic invasion in riparian areas at large scales (100 m2),
which graded into a negative relationship at small scales (0.01 m2).
Disentangling the relative contributions of sampling, niche-complementarity, and
other potential mechanisms responsible for the observed diversity effects in diversity-
gradient experiments requires further experimentation (Kennedy et al. 2002). Ecologists
are struggling to develop strategies to quantify the biological diversity of landscapes and
regions and to link vegetation analyses across scales (Stohlgren 1997).
The issue of whether species richness or species identity is more important in
determining system-level function in biodiversity experiments is controversial (Crawley
et al. 1999). Functional diversity, the number of functional groups with different
behaviors for a particular process, is receiving a renewed interest because major
thresholds in ecosystem processes may be related to the presence or absence of particular
functional groups (Hooper 1998, Prieur-Richard et al. 2000). Functional diversity
measures the extent of complementarity among species' trait values (in the same way that
phylogenetic diversity is directly related to uniquely evolved characters among species)
by estimating the dispersion of species in trait space (Petchey and Gaston 2002). Results
from several studies have shown that species identity matters more than species richness
in determining both the number of invading species and their total biomass (Crawley et
al. 1999, Dukes 2002). In most natural communities, both species richness and identity
matter, with the relative importance determined by resource supply, substrate
heterogeneity, the size of the local and regional species pools, and the scale of the
experiment (Crawley et al. 1999).
Functional diversity is an important component of biodiversity, yet in comparison
to taxonomic diversity, methods of quantifying functional diversity are less developed
(Petchey and Gaston 2002). There is no simple or standardized measure of functional
diversity (Diaz and Cabido 2001, Tilman 2001). The actual functional groups used
depend on the community type. For example, in a study conducted by Dukes (2002), in
the San Francisco Bay Area, species used were classified into one of four functional
groups (annual grasses, perennial grasses, early-season forbs, and late season forbs) while
Prieur-Richard et al. (2000) in a study of invasion of Mediterranean old fields by Conyza
bonariensis and Conyza Canadensis classified the native species used into one of three
functional groups (legumes, grasses, asteraceae). This parameter has not been
significantly examined and future work should focus on separating the effects of species
richness and functional diversity on invasibility.
Cogongrass Taxonomy and Distribution
Imperata cylindrica (L.) Beauv. (family Poaceae, subfamily Panicoideae, tribe
Andropogoneae, subtribe Andropogoneae) originated in Southeast Asia and occurs
throughout the tropical and warmer regions of the world, from Japan to Southern China,
throughout the Pacific islands, Australia, India, East Africa, and Southeastern United
States (Holm et al. 1977).
Cogongrass was introduced by accident in the U.S., to Alabama, as a packing
material in boxes from Japan in 1912 (Dickens 1974). Cogongrass was then purposefully
brought to Mississippi as a potential forage in 1921 (Dickens and Buchanan 1975) but it's
unpalatability due to its high silica content prevented its use as a long-term forage
(Dozier et al. 1998). Cogongrass was also used to stabilize soil along roadways by state
departments of transportation and spread throughout the Southeastern United States by
rhizome-infested soil during maintenance work and the construction of railroads (Jose et
al. 2002). Currently, cogongrass is on the Federal Noxious Weed List, which prohibits
new plantings. It is also included in the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer
Service's Noxious Weed List (Florida Statutes, Chapter 5B-57.007, 1993 revision) and
the Florida Exotic Pest Council's 2003 invasive plant list.
Cogongrass is reportedly established on over 500 million hectares of plantation and
agricultural land worldwide (Figure 1-1) (Holm et al. 1977). In the United States
cogongrass occurs in Florida, Mississippi, Louisiana, South Carolina, and Texas (Figure
1-2). At least 100,000 ha are infested in Alabama, Florida, and Mississippi (Schmitz and
Cogongrass is an aggressive, rhizomatous, C4 grass found mainly in tropical and
subtropical regions with annual rainfall between 750 and 5000 mm (Bryson and Carter
1993). Cogongrass is a perennial grass with basal leaf blades that can be up to 1.5 m tall
and 2 cm wide (Lippincott 1997). Leaf blades have a noticeably off-center whitish mid-
vein and scabrous margins. The serrated margins of the leaves accumulate silicates,
which deter herbivores (Dozier et al. 1998).
Cogongrass rhizomes can comprise over 60% of the total plant biomass. The large
below-ground rhizome network leads to a low shoot-to-root/rhizome ratio and contributes
to cogongrass rapid regrowth after burning and cutting (Sajise 1976; Ramsey et al. 2003;
MacDonald 2004). Rhizomes are very resistant to heat (from fires) and breakage (from
soil disturbance) and may penetrate the soil 1.2 m deep but generally occur in the top
0.15 m in heavy clay soils and the top 0.4 m of sandy soils (Holm et al. 1977). Rhizomes
are white and tough with short internodes and possess several anatomical features, such
as cataphylls (scale leaves) and sclerenchymous fibers, that help resist breakage when the
rhizomes are disturbed.
Cogongrass is able to reproduce by both sexual and asexual reproduction.
Cogongrass is a prolific seed producer with over 3000 seeds per plant and seeds are
capable of dispersal ranging from 15 m to 100 m. First flowering occurs within one year
of germination and seeds germinate soon after ripening. No seed dormancy has been
observed and seeds are highly germinable in natural populations. Seeds less than three
months old have the highest viability, with rapid decline in seed viability over time and a
complete loss of viability after one year (Shilling et al. 1997). Although seed production
has been reported to be high, seed as a major form of spread is questionable, particularly
in the U.S. (Willard et al. 1997). Seed production from populations in Florida was shown
to be self-incompatible and only cross-pollination from geographically isolated,
heterogeneous populations produced viable seeds (McDonald et al. 1995,1996).
Cogongrass can invade a wide variety of habitats, soil types and climates. It has
colonized deserts, sand dunes, grasslands, forests, river margins, and swamps.
Cogongrass is tolerant of variety of soil conditions, but grows best in acidic pH, low
fertility and low organic matter soils (MacDonald 2004). Within its native range
cogongrass is mostly limited by extreme aridity (Hubbard et al. 1944).
Cogongrass thrives in highly disturbed areas such as roadsides and reclaimed mine
areas (Bryson and Carter 1993). Dozier et al. (1998) indicated that seedling establishment
is favored in areas of limited competition, such as disturbed sites, and further suggested
that seedlings are unlikely to establish in areas with greater than 75% sod cover.
However, cogongrass can also occur in areas of fewer disturbances such as pine and
hardwood forests (Willard et al. 1997). Ramsey et al. (2003) showed that cogongrass has
a light compensation point of 32 to 35 umolm-2s-1, indicating the ability to survive in the
The negative ecological impacts of cogongrass invasion far outnumber the positive
ones. Cogongrass has little useful qualities except for thatch, short-term forage
production, and soil stabilization (Dozier et al. 1998).
Cogongrass invasion may change the structure and function of the ecosystem. Like
other exotic species, invasion may alter soil chemistry, nutrient ratios, hydrology, and
disturbance regimes. Cogongrass exerts intense competition for light, water, and nutrients
(Lippincott 1997). Cogongrass is able to persist through several survival strategies
including an extensive rhizome network, adaptation to poor soils, drought tolerance,
prolific wind-disseminated seed production, fire adaptability and high genetic plasticity
Cogongrass forms dense, and persistent stands that expand rapidly and displace
native vegetation. Above ground biomass and increased root competition prevents
recruitment of other plants and changes the properties of the litter and upper soil layers
(Lippincott 1997). Koger and Bryson (2004) tested the effects of cogongrass foliage and
root residue extracts on germination of radicle and coleoptile growth on various grass and
broadleaf species in laboratory experiments. Cogongrass residue (foliage and root)
extracts at concentrations as low as 0.5% inhibited germination and seedling growth of
Cynodon dactylon and Lolium perenne. Germination of Cynodon dactylon and Lolium
multiflorum was reduced by as much as 62% and radicle and coleoptile growth by as
much as 96% at the highest extract concentrations. Foliage and root residue extracts
reduced germination of Echinochloa crus-galli, Brachiaria ramosa, and Sida spinosa 52
to 64% and seedling growth by as much as 96%. Results from this study indicate that
cogongrass may contain allelopathic substances) that contribute to its extreme invasive
and competitive ability. In addition, Eussen and Soerjani (1975) and Eussen (1979) in a
series of experiments showed that cogongrass suppressed the growth of tomato and
cucumber and that the factors involved were more active at lower pH (Eussen and
Cogongrass is also a threat to ecosystems maintained by frequent low-intensity fire.
Dense stands of cogongrass change fire regimes and fires become more intense and more
frequent. Sandhill, a pyrogenic pine savanna ecosystem, had significantly greater fine-
fuel loads, horizontal continuity, and vertical distribution compared to indigenous
sandhill grasses when invaded with cogongrass. The increase in horizontal continuity
contributed to higher fire maximum temperatures at greater heights with fire temperatures
reaching 450'C at heights 1.5 m above ground (Lippincott 2000). These changes in fire
regime due to cogongrass invasion cause increased damage and death to normally fire
tolerant seedling and juvenile native species.
Although it is acknowledged that invasions by exotic plant species represent a
major threat to biodiversity and ecosystem stability, relatively little attention has been
paid to the potential impacts of these invasions on nutrient cycling processes in the soil.
Plant introductions of exotics have the potential to change many components of the
carbon, nitrogen, water and other cycles of an ecosystem (Ehrenfeld 2003). Studies have
shown that invasive plant species frequently increase biomass and net primary
productivity, increase N availability, alter N fixation rates, and produce litter with higher
decomposition rates than co-occurring natives (Ehrenfeld 2003). The ability to alter these
properties is most likely attributed to the differences from native species in biomass and
productivity, tissue chemistry, plant morphology, and phenology.
Differences in soil ecology are valuable indications of the effect of species richness
on invasion dynamics. Studies have been conducted on various abiotic and biotic
components of soil ecology across the invasion area of nonindigenous plants. A study
conducted by Duda (2003) tested nutrient levels (NO3, P, K, Na) among the native,
ecotone and exotic derived soils of the exotic annual chenopod, Halogeton glomeratus at
the Desert Experimental Range in western Utah. H. glomeratus monocultures that had
first been observed in 1970 were sampled and found that H. glomeratus invasion altered
soil chemistry and soil ecology, possibly creating conditions that favor exotics over
This study was designed to examine how native species richness and functional
diversity affect cogongrass invasion in Northwest Florida. Field studies were performed
to examine the following objectives and corresponding hypotheses:
Objective 1: Determine how increased plant species richness affects cogongrass
rate of spread.
Hypothesis 1: Diverse communities use resources more completely and are therefore
more resistant to invasion by cogongrass.
Objective 2: Determine how increased functional richness affects cogongrass rate
Hypothesis: Increased diversity offunctional groups will make the site less vulnerable to
cogongrass invasion by increasing competitionfor limiting resources.
Objective 3: Determine how cogongrass invasion affects soil chemical properties
of invaded areas compared to non-invaded areas.
Hypothesis: Native communities have higher nutrient status than cogongrass patches
because cogongrass is capable of extracting nutrients from the soil more efficiently.
The results of experiments carried out to test these hypotheses are presented in the
two subsequent chapters. In the final chapter, a summary of these findings is presented to
predict the effect of native species richness on cogongrass invasion and to discuss the
advantages and disadvantages of this methodology in predicting ecosystem change
caused by nonindigenous species invasion.
Figurel-1 The global distribution of Imperata cylindrica, depicted by areas in white.
(Based on information from Holm et al. 1977)
i I '- '
Figure 1-2 The general distribution oflmperata cylindrica in the United States (Based on
information from Holm et al. 1977)
IMPLICATIONS OF SPECIES RICHNESS AND FUNCTIONAL DIVERSITY ON
Charles Elton hypothesized that invasion resistance and compositional stability
increase with diversity (Elton 1958). The renewed debate about the relationship between
ecological diversity and ecosystem stability offers the opportunity to investigate which
characteristics of plant communities contribute to their invasibility. Empirical studies
have shown conflicting patterns of relationship between species diversity of resident
plant communities and their invasibility by introduced species. Recent observational and
experimental studies have shown both positive (McIntyre et al. 1988; Robinson et al.
1995; Palmer and Maurer 1997) and negative (Tilman 1997; McGrady-Steed et al. 1997;
Knops et al. 1999) relationships between species richness in the community and the
number of invading species while other studies have shown no relationship at all
(Crawley et al. 1999).
The conflicting conclusions of various studies have led many researchers to
question the predictability of Elton's hypothesis. Although comparative syntheses of a
wide range of invasive species can identify a large number of attributes that correlate
with invasiveness, little generality has been possible (Rejmanek 1996). The variability
that has been seen among studies may be because many factors covary with species
richness. For example, disturbance, resident cover and biomass, propagule pressure and
climate may vary with species richness and these variables have not been explicitly
accounted for in previous studies (Von Holle 2005).
Biological invasion is a widespread, but poorly understood phenomenon. Elton's
hypothesis, supported by theory, experiment, and anecdotal evidence, suggests that an
important determinant of invasion success is resident biodiversity, arguing that high
diversity increases the competitive environment of communities and makes them more
difficult to invade (Naeem et al. 2000). Several mechanisms have been proposed to
explain why diverse communities are less susceptible to invasion. First, invasions can be
favored by the existence of empty ecological niches that are open to colonization by non-
native species in the absence of suitable competitors (Elton 1958; Prieur-Richard et al.
2000). Second, theoreticians have suggested that diverse systems should be difficult to
invade because newly arrived species are more likely to find a competitor that precludes
their success (Dukes 2002). Third, diverse communities are more likely to use resources
more completely and therefore limiting the ability of exotics to establish (Tilman 1999;
Hooper and Vitousek 1998). A new species (whether native or exotic) must both survive
and attain a positive rate of increase while living on the resources left unconsumed by the
resident species (Seabloom et al. 2003). Thus, the mechanism governing community
assembly, exotic invasion, and restoration may depend on the levels to which various
species can reduce limiting resources. Fourth, interactions with other trophic levels, for
example herbivore pressure, may preclude establishment and invasion of exotic species
(Lodge 1993). Diversity among trophic levels, including the diversity of resident native
plants, may be an important mechanism in determining community resistance to invasion.
Current debate has also focused on whether it is species diversity or functional
diversity that contributes to the invasibility of a community. Contemporary biodiversity
research has recently concerned itself with ecosystem functioning and functional traits.
Emphasis, in the past, has been on taxonomic diversity, i.e. the richness (number of
species) and evenness (relative abundance) of assemblages, cumulative phylogenetic
distance among species and spatial and temporal patterns in the distribution of species
within a biota (Naeem and Wright 2003). The debate lies in the idea that the functioning
of an ecosystem may not be governed solely by the phylogenetic content of its biota, but
instead in combination with the functional traits of individuals, and their biological
activity. Functional diversity, the number of functional groups with different behaviors
for a particular process, is receiving a renewed interest because major thresholds in
ecosystem processes may be related to the presence or absence of particular functional
groups (Hooper 1998; Prieur-Richard and Lavorel 2000). For example, Dukes (2001)
found that high functional diversity reduced the success of Centaurea solstitialis in
grassland microscosms when resident plant species were classified in to one of four
functional groups: annual grasses, perennial bunchgrasses, early-season annual forbs, and
late-season annual forbs. Results have shown that species identity matters more than
species richness in determining both the number of invading species and the total
biomass of invaders (Crawley et al. 1999; Dukes 2002).
Cogongrass, the seventh worst weed in the world, has invaded a variety of
ecosystems in the southern United States, from highly xeric uplands to fully shaded mesic
sites (MacDonald 2004). Cogongrass is able to invade areas by both sexual reproduction
by seed and asexual reproduction through rhizomes. Although it was once thought that
flowering was rare and that flowers produced in response to stress would rarely produce
seeds (Eussen 1980), more recent work indicates that cogongrass is a prolific producer of
viable wind-blown seeds. Sexually produced seed are the only propagules capable of
natural long-distance dispersal (Dozier et al. 1998). Aerodynamic properties of the
spikelet clumps allow for long distance dispersal of up to 15 m (Hubbard et al 1944) with
each plant producing up to 3000 seeds in hair covered spikelets.
Vegetative reproduction is believed to be the primary means of local spread (Dozier
et al. 1998). Cogongrass tends to emerge in a clumped pattern and quickly forms dense
monocultures that cover vast areas (Figure 2-1). Cogongrass rhizomes are white and
tough with shortened intemodes (MacDonald 2004) (Figure 2-2). The sharp apical ends
of cogongrass may cause physical damage to the roots of surrounding vegetation
therefore increasing its competitive ability (Dozier et al. 1998). Cogongrass allocates a
large proportion of its photosynthate to the rhizomes. Rhizomes can give rise to shoots at
every node. Eussen (1980) reported the production of 350 above-ground shoots from
rhizomes, covering an area of 4 m2 in 11 weeks.
The objective of this study was to determine how surrounding vegetation affects
cogongrass invasion at both a disturbed and an undisturbed site. Elton's hypothesis
predicts that as species richness of the community increases, the rate of invasion
decreases. Therefore, one would expect to observe a negative relationship between plant
species richness and invasibility (Elton 1958). The study also examined how vegetative
cover and functional diversity affected the rate of invasion. We hypothesized that as
vegetation cover (closely correlated with biomass) and functional diversity increased the
rate of cogongrass invasion would decrease.
Field studies were conducted in a logged site and an unlogged site in Santa Rosa
County, Northwest Florida, U.S.A. The logged site, owned by International Paper
Company (30'50'N. 87"10'W), was a cutover site that was under 17-year-old loblolly
pine prior to clear cutting in 2001. The unlogged site was in Blackwater River State
Forest, which is one of the largest contiguous longleaf pine ecosystems in the Southeast
(3050'N, 8650'W). Four patches of cogongrass were randomly chosen from each site
(8 patches total). Both sites differed in soil series (Table 2-1).
Rate of Cogongrass Invasion
In June of 2003, up to 20 4 m x 1 m plots were established at random surrounding
each of the four cogongrass patches at each site (total of eight patches and 142 plots)
(Figure 2-3). Plots were marked with metal stakes around the perimeter of each patch.
Plots were established so that approximately 1 m2 of the plot was initially cogongrass
dominated and 3 m2 was native vegetation. Flags were used to mark the foliar cogongrass
edge. Plots were monitored at six-month intervals to assess the rate of spread. The first
census was on June 14 and 15, 2003; the second on November 23 and 24, 2003; and the
third on June 19 and 20, 2004. At each six-month interval the advancing front was
marked with flags. The distance of the flags along both the width and length of the plot
was measured to yield plot co-ordinates. Plot co-ordinates of the flags in each plot were
used to create a polygon and calculate the area and the rate of spread at each six-month
interval. Rate of spread was calculated using polygon analysis in ArcView 3.2
(Environmental Systems Research Institute, Inc.).
Vegetation surveys were conducted in all plots; one in the summer of 2003 (June
14,15) and the other in the winter of 2003 (November 24,25). Surveys were conducted at
each 4m x 1 m plot using sliding plots of 1 m2 directly adjacent to the advancing edge of
the cogongrass patch (Figure 2-4). This sampling design caused some vegetation to be
sampled twice if the cogongrass patch had not invaded more than 1 m2 in the six-month
interval. The 1 m2 area sampled extended from the plots that were established in June of
2003 to measure rate of cogongrass spread. Percent cover of each species and overall
species richness were recorded in each 1 m2 plot. Using the information gathered from
the vegetation surveys, each species was grouped according to one of six designated
functional groups: trees, shrubs, annual forbs, perennial forbs, vines, and grasses (Table
The Shannon-Weiner diversity index (H), a commonly used index that
characterizes species diversity in a community, was calculated for each plot using the
where i is the proportion of species relative to the total number of species (p,).
Rate of spread data was summed over the two observational intervals to yield an
annual rate. Plant species richness and functional richness were averaged over the two
observation intervals. Each patch was averaged to yield a per year rate of spread, species
richness value, functional richness value and an average per-plot percent cover value.
Each patch was considered a separate replication and each plot in the patch was a subplot
descriptor. Stepwise multiple linear regressions of the data were done using SAS (PROC
REG), where the independent variables (total percent cover, species richness and
functional diversity) were the continuous predictors and annual cogongrass rate of spread
was the response. The adjusted mean square was also calculated along with the r2 values
by adjusting both the numerator and the denominator by their respective degrees of
freedom. Treatment effects were considered significant at a= 0.10. Tests of
intercorrelation were done using the Pearson Correlation Coefficient to show correlations
among all independent variables (SAS PROC CORR) (SAS 2002).
The number of native species was variable across plots, ranging from two to
thirteen species per plot for the logged site and zero to thirteen species per plot for the
unlogged site. The most dominant species at the logged site were Andropogon virginicus,
Diodia teres, Gnaphalium obtusifolium, Panicum aciculare, Polypremum procumbens,
Rubus cuneifolius, and Rumex hastatulus. The most dominant species at the unlogged site
were Andropogon virginicus, Aristida strict, Conyza canadensis, Panicum aciculare,
Rubus cuneifolius and Gelsemium sempervirens.
At the logged site, cogongrass advanced an average of 0.50 m2 in the first six-
month survey and 1.13 m2 in the second survey. At the unlogged site, cogongrass
advanced 0.33 m2 in the first 6-month survey and 0.81 m2 in the second survey. The total
average area advanced for the logged and unlogged site per year was 1.63 m2 and 1.14 m2
respectively (Table 2-3). There was no significant difference in the area advanced
between the two sites (P= 0.29). Both logged and unlogged sites had significantly greater
advancement in the second six-month survey than the first (P<0.0001).
There was no difference between sites for species richness (P= 0.29), functional
richness (P= 0.39) and percent total cover (P= 0.20) (Table 2-4). Using stepwise multiple
linear regressions, no significant correlation was observed between the independent
variables and cogongrass spread as the response (Table 2-5). Species accounted for 11%
of the variation observed in the model while functional richness and cover only
accounted for 0.0013% and 0.030%, respectively. When all three independent variables
were included in the model they accounted for 36% of the variation. No significant
correlation was observed when linear regressions were performed between cogongrass
area advanced per year and species richness (r2= 0.11, P = 0.24), functional richness
(r2= 0.0015,P= 0.37) and percent cover (r2= 0.030, P= 0.33) (Figure 2-5, 2-6, 2-7).
Pearson's correlation coefficients showed no significant correlation between any of
the independent variables when both the logged and unlogged site were combined (Table
2-6). The Shannon-Weiner index for both the logged and unlogged sites ranged from
0.84-2.37. There was no correlation between cogongrass invasion and the indices for both
the logged (r2= 0.0071, P= 0.36) and unlogged (r2= 0.0058, P= 0.47) sites.
There was no difference in rate of cogongrass spread between the logged and the
unlogged site. This may be explained by the aggressive growth of cogongrass and its
ability to invade a wide variety of habitats. Disturbance often favors invasion (Burke and
Grime 1996, Hobbs and Huenneke 1992), but the relationship between invasibility and
disturbance is related to disturbance type, size and intensity and can relate to a diversity
of mechanisms as well as to the type of invader. The unlogged sites selected for the study
were located in the longleaf pine understory; however, were also close to roads and were
used as hunting grounds. It is possible that the intensity of disturbance was greater than
predicted initially for this site.
The results of this study, at both the logged and unlogged site, do not support the
general hypothesis of Elton (1958). Consistent with Levine and D'Antonio (1999), but in
contrast to Tilman (1997) and Stohlgren et al. (1999), results show that species richness
did not offer resistance to community invasibility for cogongrass invasion in Northwest
Florida. The lack of diversity effect at both the logged and unlogged sites may be due to
the aggressive growth pattern of cogongrass and its tremendous ability to outcompete
surrounding vegetation. Increased species richness is hypothesized to increase the use of
resources; decrease the space for establishment by increasing the productivity of the
community and decrease root space (Prieur-Richard et al. 2000). However, cogongrass'
extensive rhizome and root network may allow for its persistence in more diverse
communities regardless of nutrient levels. Cogongrass has many anatomical features that
help conserve water and resist breakage including a band on sclerenchymous fibers just
below the epidermis and brownish colored cataphylls (scale leaves), which form a
protective sheath around the rhizome (English 1998). Cogongrass is successful in low
fertility, low organic matter and acidic soils. Therefore, it is possible that nutrient
limitations may not be as restrictive to cogongrass invasion and competitive processes.
No significant correlation between area advanced and percent native ground cover
was observed. Percent cover was assumed to be correlated with biomass. Cogongrass
invasion was predicted to decrease in response to percent total cover because of increased
root competition due to greater biomass and reduced light availability. However,
cogongrass rhizomes are incredibly resilient and posses both morphological and
anatomical features, which may make it a better competitor, even under dense canopy
cover. The hard sharp points of cogongrass rhizomes are able to penetrate roots, bulbs
and tubers of other plants leading to infection, which may explain its success in areas of
high root competition (Terry et al. 1997). Finally, cogongrass has been shown to have a
light compensation point of between 32 and 35 t mol/ m2 s-1, which indicates
cogongrass' ability to survive as an understory species. For this reason, cogongrass may
continue to be successful in areas with increased cover and shading.
Previous studies of natural invasion patterns have been criticized for not
considering the effects of other ecological components (e.g. species v. functional
richness) (Lavorel et al. 1999). Hence, the relationship found between number of species
and invader performance from previous studies had to be considered with care because it
may have been an effect of species identities instead of species richness. This study
attempted to look at both the effects of species richness and also the effect of functional
The results of this study do not support functional richness as playing an important
role in community invasibility. The role of functional diversity has recently received
much attention and negative relationships between functional diversity and rate of
invasion have been reported (Crawley et al. 1999; Dukes 2002). In this case, the lack of
observed functional diversity effect may have resulted from large amounts of species that
were placed in the functional category of annual forbs and perennial forbs and the low
proportion of sites occupied by different functional groups. There were also large
differences in biomass between of the different functional groups, which may have led to
no diversity effects being observed. The observational nature of this study prevents
sampling of a true diversity of functional groups amongst plots. Previous studies that
have observed functional diversity effects have manipulated functional diversity of plots
(Dukes 2002). Similar work is currently underway in which microcosm of manipulated
functional richness are being used to assess how different functional groups affect
cogongrass regrowth and invasion (Daneshgar and Jose, unpublished data).
Lack of control of extrinsic factors (e.g., disturbance. climate, or soil fertility) that
covary with biodiversity and invasion in observational studies make it difficult to
determine if findings truly support or refute Elton's hypothesis. Several experimental
studies that directly manipulated diversity in plant communities suggest that inhibitory
effects of diversity on invasibility can be detected when extrinsic factors are controlled
experimentally (Knops et al. 1999, Levine 2000, Naeem et al. 2000, Prieur-Richard et al.
2000, Foster 2002). Nonetheless, this study suggests that within a neighborhood,
diversity does not minimize community invasibility.
Observational studies of the relationship between community invasibility and
native plant diversity have yielded conflicting results. Results from previous studies on
diversity-invasibility relationship have been positive (McIntyre et al 1988; (Robinson et
al. 1995, Palmer and Maurer 1997) and negative (Tilman 1997; McGrady-Steed et al.
1997; Dukes 2002; Knops et al. 1999). While it is still too early to resolve these
conflicting results, the findings of this study do not lend support to Elton's hypothesis.
Although this study is an observational study, which can often limit the ability to draw
causal relationships, this research offers valuable insight to researchers and managers as
to whether plant diversity affects cogongrass invasion and may generate important
research questions for future exploration. Observational studies such as these are often
confounded by numerous extrinsic factors (e.g., disturbance. climate, or soil fertility) that
cannot be controlled. Future work could look at similar relationships between species
diversity and invasibility by controlling several of these extrinsic factors.
Future work may also look at larger plot sizes. Recent studies have begun to
investigate how the scale that an experiment is carried out may contribute to either a
negative or a positive relationship between biodiversity and invasibility. The diversity
resistance hypothesis is supported by both theory and experimental studies conducted at
small scales (Kennedy et al. 2002). However, there is also evidence to support that a
positive relationship may exist when measured at regional scales (Stohlgren et al. 1999).
Based on studies conducted by Tilman (2004) the resolution to this invasion paradox is
that small nearby plots are likely to have similar within-plot spatial heterogeneity and
therefore differences in their diversity would correspond to differences in the degree to
which the existing species exploited that heterogeneity. At larger scales, the regional
species pool should be sufficient to exploit the heterogeneity of areas with low spatial
heterogeneity, but insufficient to do so in areas with the greatest spatial heterogeneity.
This insufficiency would cause the most diverse regions to be the most readily invaded
because the greater heterogeneity would be less fully exploited.
One limitation of this study was the narrow range of species richness, functional
richness and total percent cover at the patches sampled. Future studies should consider
sampling communities with a wide range of species richness as well as increasing the
sample size (number of patches) monitored.
Table 2-1 Site descriptions of cogongrass patches used at International Paper (logged
site) and Blackwater River State Forest (unlogged site)
Troup loamy sand (0-5 % slope)
Bonifay loamy sand
Troup loamy sand
Troup loamy sand
Troup loamy sand
Troup sand (0-5% slope)
Dothan loamy sand (0-5% slope)
Dothan loamy sand (2-5% slope)
Troup loamy sand (0-5% slope)
Dothan loamy sand
Fuquay loamy fine sand
(5-8 % slope)
Loamy, siliceous, thermic,
Loamy, siliceous, thermic
Loamy, siliceous, thermic,
Loamy, siliceous, thermic,
Loamy, siliceous, thermic,
Loamy, siliceous, thermic,
Loamy, siliceous, thermic,
Loamy, siliceous, thermic
arenic, Plinthic Kandiudults.
Table 2-2. Species found at logged and unlogged
Scientific Name Common Name
Functional Group Annual/Perrenial
Slender threeseed mercury
Beach false foxglove
Florida lady's nightcap
Broadleaf signal grass
Herbert hairy chaffhead
Herbert vanilla leaf
New Jersey tea
Pine barren flatsedge
Table 2-2. Continued
Greater Florida spurge
Man of the earth
Harper seaside primrose willow
Cutleaf evening primose
Needle leaf rosette grass
Functional Group Annual/Perrenial
Table 2-2. Continued
Many flower beardtongue
Eastern poison ivy
Functional Group Annual/Perrenial
Table 2-2. Continued
Functional Group Annual/Perrenial
t Indicate species that could not be more specifically identified
Table 2-3 Area advanced in 2 six-month intervals (mean + 1 SE)
Area Advanced (m2)
0.50 + 0.021
Unlogged 0.33 + 0.10
4 1.13 + 0.095
4 0.81+ 0.18
N Per Year
Table 2-4 Average values for the three independent continuous variables at both the
logged and unlogged site.
Logged Site Unlogged Site P
Species Richness/ m2 7.02+0.23 6.07+0.18 0.29
Functional Rich./m2 3.48+0.069 3.18+0.10 0.39
Percent Cover / m2 45.92+1.63 46.67+1.79 0.20
Table 2-5 Stepwise multiple linear regression summary table of results for the 3
independent variables total percent cover, species richness, and functional
richness) with cogongrass annual spread as the response for the logged site
and unlogged site combined. Effects were considered significant at a = 0.1.
Where, Cover = the total percent cover per plot, Species = the total species
richness per plot and, Func. = the total functional diversity per plot.
Variables in model
Species Func. Cover
Table 2-6 Pearsons coefficient correlation of the three independent variables (total
percent cover, species richness and functional diversity) for the logged site and unlogged
site combined. None of the correlations were significant.
% Total Cover
% Total Cover
gv. ,I .
Figure 2-1 Aenal photograph of cogongrass invasion at the logged site taken in 2003.
Light green patches are cogongrass invaded areas
Figure 2-2 Photograph of cogongrass extensive rhizome network. Photograph was taken
at the logged site.
Figure 2-3 Photograph of a cogongrass patch used at the logged site. Flags were used to
mark the cogongrass edge at each six-month interval.
FLAGSJUNE 2003 FLAGS NOV 2003 FLAGS LINE2004
I 1 m2 area sapled m Nov. 2003
Figure 2-4 Diagram of sampling design for plots at both sites. Twenty 4 m x 1 m plots
(bold boundary) were established on the perimeter of each cogongrass patch.
The percent cover of each species was recorded from 1 m2 sliding plots
directly adjacent to the cogongrass patch. Therefore, some native areas were
sampled more than once if the cogongrass patch did not invade more than 1
m2 in the six month interval.
S0.60- y = 0.1232x + 0.5717
0.40- R2 = 0.112
0.20 P= 0.24
4.00 5.00 6.00 7.00 8.00 9.00 10.00
Species Richness/ m2
Figure 2-5 Relationship of native plant species richness and area advanced by cogongrass
over the period of one year for each patch. Area advanced by cogongrass is
plotted against plant species richness of the resident community for both the
logged and unlogged sites (n=8). Dashed line represents linear regression of
patch values for both logged and unlogged sites (r2 = 0.112, P = 0.24).
N- 1.80 -
y = 0.0525x + 1.2125
08R2 = 0.0015
S080 -P =0.37
2.50 2.70 2.90 3.10 3.30 3.50 3.70 3.90
Functional richness/ m2
Figure 2-6 Relationship of native plant functional richness and area advanced by
cogongrass over the period of one year for each patch. Area advanced by
cogongrass is plotted against plant functional richness of the resident
community for both the logged and unlogged sites (n=8). Dashed line
represents linear regression of patch values for both logged and unlogged sites
(r2 =0.0015, P = 0.37).
i 1.40 .--
-y = -0.0099x + 1.8556
0.60- R2 0.0297
S0.40 P 0.33
20.00 30.00 40.00 50.00 60.00 70.00
Percent Native Ground Cover/ m2
Figure 2-7 Relationship of percent native ground cover and area advanced by cogongrass
over the period of one year for each patch. Area advanced by cogongrass is
plotted against percent native ground cover of the resident community for
both the logged and unlogged sites (n=8). Dashed line represents linear
regression of patch values for both logged and unlogged sites (r2 =0.0297, P =
COGONGRASS INVASION ALTERS SOIL CHEMICAL PROPERTIES OF
NATURAL AND PLANTED FORESTLANDS
Invasions by exotics are changing large areas of North American ecosystems, but
their biogeochemical impacts are not well characterized (Hook et al. 2004). Past research
has shown that introduction of a new plant species, such as an exotic invasive, has the
potential to change many components of the carbon (C), nitrogen (N), water, and other
cycles of an ecosystem (Duda et al. 2003; Ehrenfeld 2003). Altered soils may be the
driving mechanism that provides a suitable environment to facilitate future invasions and
decrease native biodiversity. These consequences may, in turn, have impacts on the
invasibility of an ecosystems and the invasiveness of the exotic species.
Exotic plants alter soil nutrient dynamics by differing from native species in
biomass and productivity, tissue chemistry, symbiotic associates, plant morphology, and
phenology. Available data suggest that invasive plants frequently increase biomass and
net primary productivity, alter nutrient availability, and produce litter with higher
decomposition rates than co-occurring native species (Ehrenfeld 2003). Differences in
litter mass or the litter decomposition is often, but are not always, accompanied by
changes in organic matter. For example, Windham (1999) found that despite having large
differences in standing crop biomass and litter dynamics, there was no difference in soil
organic matter content in Phragmites- invaded compared to non-invaded Spartinapatens
Plant invasions do not result in consistent changes in soil properties, even for the
same invasive species. For example, a recent study by Hook et al. (2004) indicated that
Centaurea maculosa, a perennial Eurasian forb, might increase or decrease soil C and N
pools in native grasslands in Montana, U.S.A. Available data suggest a number of trends
with respect to soil nutrients and plant invasions. Invasions have been associated with
increases (Rutherford et al. 1986; Stock et al. 1995; Witkowski 1991; Vitousek and
Walker 1989), decreases (Feller 1983; Versfeld 1986) or no change in soil N (Belnap et
al. 2001). Howard et al. (2004) surveyed 44 sites in southeastern New York to examine
the relationships between plant community characteristics, soil characteristics, and
invasions by a number of exotic invasive plant species. Their study indicated that soil
nitrogen mineralization and nitrification rates were strongly related to the degree of site
invasion. Across the broad environmental gradients and community types, invasive
species were more commonly found in communities associated with higher resource
Exotic plant invasions have also shown to have an effect on a variety of other
elements including P, K, Ca, and Mg. Decreases in soil extractable pools may be
associated with high uptake rates of these elements, which is driven by a large biomass or
high tissue nutrient concentrations of the exotic species. For example, studies conducted
by Suding et al. (2004) showed that reduction of soil P weakened the ability of Centaurea
diffusa, an exotic invasive, to tolerate neighbor competition proportionately more than
other native species in grazed mixed-grassprairie. Consequently, under low P conditions,
C. diffusa lost its competitive advantage and tolerated neighbor competition similarly to
other native species.
Potassium is usually the most abundant of the major nutrient elements in soil. The
total K content of soils varies from <0.01% to about 4% and is commonly about 1%
(Blake et al. 1999). When K levels were manipulated in a mid-elevation Trachypogon
savanna in Venezuela, Melinis minutiflora, an invasive African grass, greatly increased
seedling biomass (Barger et al. 2003). This effect was greatly enhanced when neighbor
competition was reduced (e. g. clipping). The significant enhancement of Melinis
seedling growth with K addition suggests that low soil nutrients and the presence of
native savanna species are important factors in the ability of native savanna to resist
Melinis establishment. In contrast, Howard et al. (2004) found a strong positive
relationship between degree of site invasion and soil C, P and Mg for a variety of
invading species studies with a broad range of environmental gradients and community
types in New York.
Changes in soil pH have also been reported to result from a variety of exotic plant
invasions. Conflicting results of increases (Ehrenfeld 2001; Kourtev et al. 1998; Kourtev
et al. 1999), decreases (Boswell and Espie 1998; Scott et al.2001) or no change in
response to invasion have been reported. Studies of two newly invading exotic plant
species in hardwood forests of New Jersey, Berberis thunbergii and Microstegium
vimineum, found that soil pH in invaded areas were significantly higher than in the non-
invaded areas, and the litter and organic horizons were thinner (Kourtev et al. 1998). In
contrast, studies conducted by Scott et al. (2001) found that Hieracium species, invading
New Zealand's tussock grasslands, increased total soil C and N and lowered soil pH and
mineral N relative to the adjacent herb-field vegetation.
The present study examined soil chemical properties in areas invaded by a non-
native invasive species, Imperata cylindrica (hereafter cogongrass). As an opportunistic
C4 perennial grass, cogongrass possess characteristics that make it more competitive
compared to native species. Cogongrass can colonize disturbed or undisturbed areas from
a large number of seeds and also from an extensive belowground rhizome network. It
forms dense monospecific stands that competes with and displaces native species.
Congongrass also has allelopathic properties, which may add to its ability to outcompete
other species (Eussen and Soerjani 1975).
The successful invasion of cogongrass in many areas can also be attributed to its
ability to tolerate a wide range of soil conditions. The habitats where cogongrass invades
are diverse, ranging from the coarse sands of shorelines; the fine sands or sandy loams of
swamps and river margins, to the clay soils of reclaimed phosphate settling ponds.
Cogongrass has extremely efficient nutrient uptake (Saxena and Ramakrishnan 1983) and
associations with mycorrhizae, which may help explain its competitiveness on unfertile
soils (Brook 1989). Brewer and Cralle (2003) suggested that cogongrass is a better
competitor for phosphorus than are native pine-savanna plants, especially legumes, and
that short-lived, high-level pulses of phosphorus addition reduce this competitive
advantage without negatively affecting native plant diversity. Species richness of native
plants was negatively correlated with final aboveground biomass of cogongrass in control
and P-fertilized plots.
The objective of our study was to determine whether cogongrass would alter soil
chemical properties of invaded patches. The first hypothesis was that soil organic matter
would increase in invaded areas because of the higher biomass of cogongrass in
comparison to the native flora. Second, that soil nutrients (N03-N, P, K, Ca, and Mg)
would decline in cogongrass-invaded patches because of its extensive rhizome/root
network and rapid accumulation of aboveground biomass. Third, that root exudates into
the rhizophere would make the soil more acidic in invaded areas.
Materials and Methods
Field studies were conducted at two sites in Santa Rosa County, Northwest Florida,
U.S.A.; a logged site and an unlogged site. The logged site, owned by International Paper
Company (30'50'N, 87"10'W), was a cutover site that was under 17-year-old loblolly
pine prior to clear cutting. The unlogged site in Blackwater River state forest, is one of
the largest contiguous longleaf pine forest tracts in the Southeast (30'50'N, 86'50'W).
Four patches of cogongrass were randomly chosen from each site. Two soil surveys were
conducted one in the spring of 2004 and the other in the fall of 2004.
Soil samples were collected from rectangular plots (4 m xl m) established at
random around the perimeter of each patch at both sites. Two composite samples of 10
soil cores (15 cm deep) each were extracted pair wise from a total of 75 plots in the
native and cogongrass monoculture areas using a soil auger. All soil composites were
analyzed for organic matter, N03-N, P, K, Ca, Mg and soil pH. Soil organic matter was
determined by loss on ignition (5000C) (Storer 1984). Soil samples were sieved through
a 2 mm sieve prior to extractions for elemental analysis. Soil N03-N was determined by
extracting 20 g subsamples with 100 ml 1 MKC1. The extractant was gravity filtered and
then frozen in 20 ml scintillation vials until analysis by Analytical Research Laboratory
of the University of Florida (ARL-UF) using an Alpkem Flow Solution IV semi-
automated spectrophotometer. P, K, Ca and Mg were also analyzed (EPA method 200.7)
by ARL-UF using an inductively coupled plasma-atomic emissions spectrometer
following extraction of 5 g subsamples with 20 ml Mehlich-1 extractant solution.
Soil acidity was measured in a 1:2 soil/water solution (Kalra 1995). Soil texture
was determined based on a soil composite sample from each site (Waters Agricultural
Laboratories Inc., Georgia, U.S.A) (Appendix A).
Each patch was considered to be a replicate (total of 8 patches) and plots as
subplot descriptors. Soil organic matter, NO3-N, P, K, Ca, Mg and soil pH, between
invaded and native patches, was analyzed using a mixed linear model, which took into
account the within plot variation (pair-wise sampling) and also the between patch
variation using analysis of variance (SAS PROC MIXED) (SAS 2002). Treatment effects
were considered significant at a= 0.10.
Soil Organic Matter
There were no differences in soil organic matter (0-15 cm) between logged and
unlogged sites (P= 0.68). Soil organic matter content was also the same between invaded
and non-invaded areas at both sites (3.05 % invaded and 2.88 % native; P= 0.46).
NO3-N was significantly lower at logged site compared to the unlogged site
(P= 0.019). Average soil NO3-N at the logged site was 0.1676 mg/L whereas it was
0.1751 mg/L at the unlogged site. NO3-N levels of the invaded patches were 2.7% lower
than native areas for the first soil survey (P= 0.010) (Figure 3-1). The second soil survey
(fall) showed a significant difference in NO3-N between sites (P= 0.10), but did not show
a significant difference between native and cogongrass infested areas (P= 0.60).
The amount of available P did not differ between the native and cogongrass
patches in both summer (P= 0.30) and fall (P= 0.53) samplings. There was also no
significant difference between the two sample sites for both soil surveys (P= 0.12 for
summer and P= 0.12 for fall). Similarly, there was no significant site difference in
available K for both sampling dates (P= 0.75, P= 0.95). However, in summer, soil
available K was 6% lower (P= 0.0001) in cogongrass patches compared to native patches.
The fall sampling yielded similar results with 4.9 % less K in the cogongrass patches
(P=0.038) (Figure 3-2) compared to native areas.
Although there was no significant difference between the invaded and control
patches for available Mg during the summer sampling (P= 0.71), the fall sampling
showed significant reduction in the native areas (P= 0.067) (Figure 3-1). There was no
significant difference in Mg concentration between the two sites (P= 0.31) for any of the
sampling dates (Figure 3-2).
Both sampling dates showed significantly less available Ca at the undisturbed site
compared to the disturbed sites (P= 0.033 for summer, P= 0.031 for fall). However, Ca
concentration did not differ between the invaded and native patches for both samplings.
Soil pH was lower in the cogongrass patches compared to the native patches for the
summer (5.02 for cogongrass and 5.11 for native) and fall (4.40 for cogongrass and 4.62
for native) sampling (Table 3-1). However, there was no difference between the two sites
for both samplings.
Despite the extensive rhizome network and increased above ground biomass in
cogongrass invaded areas (Ramsey et al. 2003), no difference in soil organic matter was
observed between the invaded and native patches sampled. Differences in litterfall mass
interact with differences in the litter decomposition rate to affect the net flux of C into the
soil. The slow decomposition rate of cogongrass litter may ultimately be the reason for no
observed difference in soil organic matter between treatments. This is supported by
research of Hartemink and O'Sullivan (2001) who tested the decomposition and nutrient
release patterns of cogongrass in the humid lowlands of Papua New Guinea. These
authors determined that cogongrass leaf litter decomposed much slower and half-life
values exceeded the period of observation. The differences among decomposition
patterns were best explained by the lignin+polyphenol:N ratio, which was highest for
There are several reasons to believe that cogongrass played a role in lowering soil
NO3-N in the invaded patches. All patches were similar with regard to soil texture, color
and disturbance history at each site. The lower N03-N availability found in invaded
patches may have resulted from cogongrass' aggressive growth pattern, extensive
rhizome network and longer growing season. A companion study by Daneshgar et al.
(2005) at the logged site showed that belowground biomass of cogongrass was ten times
greater than that of native vegetation. Lower N03-N levels in cogongrass patches may be
the result of efficient nutrient uptake by the dense root/rhizome systems. Cogongrass is
also known to have mycorrhizal associations, which may also explain the lower nitrate
availability in invaded patches (Brook 1989). Mycorrhizae improve nutrient availability
to host plants and alter their morphology, physiology, and competitive ability (Bray et al.
2003). As a result of lowering nutrient levels, specifically N, cogongrass may also be able
to impede colonization and survival of native species, and facilitate its own persistence.
Lower nitrate levels may also indicate lower ammonium and reduced nitrification;
however, these variables were not tested.
Differences in soil NO3-N among soil surveys is attributed to differences in active
growth and nutrient uptake during the growing season (March 2004) compared to the
slow-growth in the fall. Following active vegetative growth early on, cogongrass growth
and biomass accumulation reach a plateau in late summer (Shilling et al 1997). The
difference in soil NO3-N between sampling dates, perhaps, reflects the difference in
nutrient uptake patterns at different times of the year. Similar conclusions have been
drawn by Wolf et al. (2004), whose study of invasion of a nitrogen-fixing non-native
species, Melilotus officinalis, yielded a similar trend for soil nitrate. In this case, NO3-N
was significantly lower in invaded patches sampled in May and then progressively
decreased in both invaded and control patches so that no significant difference between
the areas was evident when sampled in August.
Other nutrients (P,K,Ca, and Mg) exhibited varying trends with respect to
cogongrass invasion. There was no significant difference in soil extractable pools for P
for both surveys. This was contrary to previous research that has shown levels of P and N
are often related (Evans and Belnap 1999). Because our sampling scheme allowed only
the newly invaded edges to be sampled, perhaps a significant relationship was not
observed because of temporal constraints. Changes in soil nutrient pools may require
longer periods of time to show differences to native patches. Future research could
examine P differences between cogongrass patches that have been established for longer
periods of time and native vegetation.
Lower levels of K were observed in invaded patches than native patches for both
soil surveys. Many grass species with fine, fibrous root systems are able to exploit K held
in clay interlayers and near the edges of mica and feldspar crystals of clay and silt size
particles (Brady and Weil 2002). The extensive belowground rhizome network
(Daneshgar et al. 2005) as well as association with mycorrhizae (Brook 1989) may
account for the ability to exploit soil K more efficiently than native species. Elephant
grass (Pennisetum purpureum Schum), has been shown to obtain K from sand-sized
particles, a form usually considered unavailable to plants (Brady and Weil 2002).
Potassium is known to affect cell division, formation of carbohydrates, translocation of
sugars, some enzyme actions, the resistance of some plants to certain diseases, cell
permeability, and several other functions (Plaster 1992). Thus, decreases in soil K in
cogongrass areas could have serious implications for recruitment and growth of native
Lower pH was found in invaded patches in relation to control patches, for both soil
surveys. The mechanisms for decreases in pH in response to exotic invasion have been
attributed to increased nitrification, high rates of uptake of NH4+, and/or changes in litter
quality (more acidic, base-poor litter) (Ehrenfeld 2003). Although NH4+ was not tested
directly, decreases in N03-N were observed in cogongrass areas and lower nitrate levels
may also indicate lower ammonium levels. The preferential uptake of NH4+ ions from
cogongrass infested areas releases H+ ions, resulting in a lower pH in the rhizosphere soil
immediately surrounding the plant root. Differences in NH4+ uptake between cogongrass
and native plants could account for the differences in soil pH in such short proximity.
Although we do not have direct evidence of any mechanisms responsible for
lowering soil pH in cogongrass invaded patches, past research findings may also point to
allelopathy as a potential mechanism. In addition to the possibility of root exudates that
are acidic, allelochemicals produced by cogongrass may also make the soil more acidic.
Phenolic compounds present in foliage, roots, and rhizomes of cogongrass may be
responsible for the allelopathic inhibition of germination and seedling development of
other species (Inderjit and Dakshini 1991). Koger and Bryson (2003) suggest that
allelopathic substances) provide cogongrass its extreme invasive and competitive
abilities. However, the specific phenolic compounds in cogongrass tissues have not been
identified and tested for allelopathic properties and any research on potential allelopathy
by cogongrass is still preliminary and inconclusive.
Decrease pH in cogongrass patches may also have implications for other soil
extractable pools in the long term. At low pH, the cation exchange capacity is in general
lower with only the permanent charges of the 2:1 type clays and a small portion of the pH
dependent charges on organic colloids, allophane and some 1:1 type clays holding
exchangeable ions. Strongly acidic soils hold H+ and hydroxy aluminum ions tightly to
the soil surface. This tight association prevents K and other elements from being closely
associated with the colloidal surfaces, which reduces their susceptability to fixation
(Brady and Weil 2002). Continous acidic conditions may eventually reduce many soil
nutrient pools; greatly reducing the success of surrounding native vegetation as well as
transforming ecosystem biogeochemical properties.
This research offers valuable insight to researchers and managers as to whether soil
effects may be due to or responsible for cogongrass invasion and may generate important
research questions for future experimentation. Future research could continue to examine
how cogongrass changes soil properties in the area it is invading. Further variables such
as nitrogen mineralization and soil moisture would be valuable to consider. Feedback,
both positive and negative, resulting from plant-soil interactions is often invoked to
explain vegetation patterns (Berendse 1998; Petraitis and Latham 1999). Future research
could examine how soil based feedback is acting either to accelerate the invasion of
cogongrass or stabilize it once it has already invaded.
More definitive conclusions regarding these and other hypotheses await field and
greenhouse experiments that clearly separate the independent effects of abiotic and biotic
mechanisms determining community invasbility. Information gathered from such studies
could have important implications for the restoration of native communities and
revegetation with native species. Cogongrass invasion in the southeastern United States
continues to be a large economic and ecological problem. Extensive study of soil
processes and plant-soil feedbacks would be a valuable tool before expensive resource
demanding control programs are undertaken (Zavaleta et al. 2001). More studies of a
similar nature are necessary to determine whether invaders escape resource limitations of
the resident community and use other resources to their competitive advantage so that
they could facilitate their own invasion into an area.
Table 3-1 Mean soil pH in invaded and control patches for soil surveys in spring 2004
and fall 2004 for the logged and unlogged sites combined.
Invaded Control SD F(dfn, dfd) P<
Spring 2004 (n=8)
5.02 5.11 0.13 18.71 (1,140) 0.0001
Fall 2004 (n=8)
4.40 4.62 0.49 8.38 (1, 138) 0.0044
Figure 3-1 Mean concentrations (Mean + 1 SE) of available N03-N for the logged (n=4)
and unlogged (n=4) sites for the summer 2004 soil survey. Different letters
indicate significant differences between cogongrass (m) and native patches (o)
P March 2004
K March 2004
Mg March 2004
Mg Sept. 2004
Figure 3-2 Mean concentrations (Mean + 1 SE) of available P, K, and Mg (n = 8) for the
logged and unlogged sites for the spring and fall 2004. Different letters
indicate significant differences between cogongrass and native patches
P Sept. 2004
K Sept. 2004
SUMMARY AND CONCLUSIONS
Field studies were performed to investigate the implications of plant diversity and
soil chemical properties on Imperata cylindrica (hereafter referred to as cogongrass)
invasion in Northwest Florida ecosystems. Here, invasibility is defined as the degree to
which a community is susceptible to an exotic species. There are numerous factors that
influence a community's susceptibility to invasion including the composition and
diversity of resident species. One of the earliest theories relating biodiversity and
invasibility was hypothesized by Charles Elton. Elton predicted that lower resident
diversity would favor invasion (diversity-invasibility hypothesis). The objectives of this
study were: 1) determine how increased plant species richness affects cogongrass rate of
spread, 2) determine how increased plant functional richness affects cogongrass rate of
spread, and 3) determine how cogongrass invasion affects soil chemical properties of
invaded areas compared to non-invaded areas.
There have been several proposed mechanisms as to why diverse communities are
less susceptible to invasion. First, invasions can be favored by the existence of empty
ecological niches which are open to colonization by non-native species in the absence of
suitable competitors (Elton 1958; Prieur-Richard et al. 2000). Second, theoreticians have
suggested that diverse systems should be difficult to invade because newly arrived
species are more likely to find a competitor that precludes their success (Dukes 2002).
Third, diverse communities are more likely to use resources more completely and
therefore limiting the ability of exotics to establish (Tilman 1999; Hooper and Vitousek
1998). Fourth, interactions with other trophic levels, for example herbivore pressure,
may preclude establishment and invasion of exotic species (Lodge 1993). Diversity
among trophic levels may be an important mechanism in determining community
resistance to invasion. In this research, I hypothesize that as species richness and
functional richness increase an ecosystem may be less susceptible to cogongrass invasion.
Similarly, I also predict that as cogongrass invades it will be a better competitor for light
and nutrients and will deplete the resources in the area where it invades.
After thorough investigation of two field sites, a logged site and an unlogged
longleaf pine site, the extreme competitive ability and resiliency of cogongrass became
evident. The total per year advancement for the logged and unlogged site was 1.63 m2 and
1.14 m2' respectively, indicating the ability of cogongrass to dominate large areas in a
short period of time. The first study sought to investigate the effect of species richness
and functional richness on cogongrass invasion. The number of native species was
variable across the plots examined, ranging from two to thirteen species per plot for the
logged site and zero to thirteen species per plot for the unlogged site.
Species richness, the total number of species, did not significantly affect the rate of
cogongrass invasion at the logged site and the unlogged site. Increased species richness in
a community may increase the productivity of the community and decrease root space
available to an invading species. Cogongrass invasion did not show this relationship. The
lack of diversity effect observed for cogongrass invasion is attributed to the aggressive
below ground spread by rhizomes. Cogongrass rhizomes have morphological and
anatomical features that make them more competitive to acquire soil nutrients. The
ability of cogongrass to survive and spread on low fertility and low organic matter soils
may indicate that competition for soil nutrients in a diverse community may not be as
limiting to cogongrass invasion as hypothesized.
Increased functional diversity did not significantly affect cogongrass invasion at
either site. In general it is believed that, a diversity of functional groups (i.e. rooting
depths, life forms, life histories etc.) may support the hypothesis that diverse areas are
more likely to carry a competitor that will preclude the success of an exotic species. The
lack of observed diversity effect may result from large amounts of species that were in
the functional category of annual and perennial forbs and also that the proportion of sites
occupied by different functional groups was low. Future work could use microcosm
studies of manipulated functional richness to assess how different functional groups
affect cogongrass regrowth and invasion.
No significant relationship was observed between percent native ground cover
and cogongrass invasion. In previous studies reduced invasion rates in areas of high
percent plant cover have been attributed to increased root competition and reduced
availability of light. In the case of cogongrass, reduced light availability and rooting
competition do not appear to be a significant barrier against invasion. Cogongrass is able
to persist in low light conditions under the moderate shade of savannahs and the sharp
rhizomes are able to cause physical injury to surrounding vegetation.
To determine how cogongrass invasion affects soil properties, two soil surveys
were conducted and samples were taken pair wise from both the cogongrass monoculture
and the native side of the cogongrass patch. A significant difference between treatments
was observed for pH, N03-N and K between invaded and non-invaded areas.
Significantly lower levels ofNO3-N and K were observed in the cogongrass patch
compared to the native patch. Lower levels of these nutrients may be attributed to the
extreme competitive ability of cogongrass to extract available resources from the area in
which it is invading. Cogongrass has an extensive belowground rhizome/root network as
well as an association with mycorrhizae, which may help explain its competitiveness on
infertile soils and efficient nutrient uptake. The degree of fine roots, root length and root
turnover may influence root competition and lead to higher spatial variability and
heterogeneity in soil resources.
The soils of the cogongrass patch were found to be significantly more acidic than
that of the surrounding native vegetation. Based on the observations made in this study,
cogongrass may suppress growth of surrounding species and effectively lower pH in the
area it is invading through root exudates, which could include allelochemicals.
Decreased pH in cogongrass patches may also have implications for other soil extractable
pools in the long term. Continuous acidic conditions may eventually reduce many base
ions; greatly reducing the success of surrounding native vegetation as well as
transforming ecosystem biogeochemical properties.
This study provides important new insight into currently proposed hypotheses
concerning community invasibility. The results, from both the logged and unlogged site
of this study do not support the general hypothesis of Elton (1958) that invasion
resistance and compositional stability increase with diversity. Based on the results of all
of the research reported within, plant species diversity, functional richness and total
percent cover of the native community do not appear to be important factors affecting the
rate of cogongrass invasion in Northwest Florida. Cogongrass invasion does appear to
have a significant effect on soil extractable nutrient pools. Our results indicate that exotic
invaders may modify their environment in a way to favor their own invasion.
One limitation of this study was the narrow range of species richness, functional
richness and total percent cover at the patches sampled. Future studies should consider
sampling communities with a wide range of species richness as well as increasing the
sample size (number of patches) monitored.
SOIL TEXUTRE DATA
Table A-1. Soil texture data from sites used at both clearcut sites at International Paper
(logged) and sandhill sites at Blackwater River State Forest (unlogged)
Sandy Clay Loam
45-60 Sandy Loam
Patch 3 0-15 Sandy Loam
15-30 Sandy Loam
30-45 Sandy Loam
45-60 Sandy Loam
Patch 4 0-15 Sandy Loam
15-30 Sandy Loam
30-45 Sandy Loam
45-60 Sandy Clay Loam
FUNCTIONAL RICHNESS DATA FOR LOGGED AND
* Annual Forbs
* Perennial Forbs
2.5 3 3.5 4 4.5 5
Figure B-l Average percent cover for each functional group for each functional richness
level at the logged site. Data was compiled from all plots sampled (n=118).
* Annual Forbs
1.5 2 2.5 3 3.5 4 4.5 5
Figure B-2 Average percent cover for each functional group for each functional richness
level at the unlogged site. Data was compiled from all plots sampled (n=118).
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Alexandra Robin Collins was born in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada, in
1981. She graduated from Burnaby Central High School in June 1999, and entered Simon
Fraser University in Burnaby, British Columbia, the following September. She received
her Bachelor of Science degree in biology with a specialization in ecology in April 2003.
In February of 2003, Alexandra contacted Dr. Shibu Jose and spoke with him about
her experience and desire to attend graduate school at the University of Florida. In May
of 2003 she made the big move from Vancouver to Milton, Florida, to conduct research
at the West Florida Research and Education Center for the summer. In the fall of 2003
Alexandra moved to Gainesville to begin course work.
While living in Gainesville Alexandra was an active member of the Forestry
Graduate Student Organization and Graduate Assistants United. Alexandra was a senator
on student government and presented various pieces of legislation in regards to graduate
student issues. Although Alexandra has many interests on campus, she was a dedicated
member of the gator synchronized swimming team and competed at the national level for
two years while completing her master's.
Alexandra plans to pursue a Ph.D. program focusing on ecological and economic
implications of invasive non-indigenous plants.