Researchers studying invasive plants often concentrate their efforts on predictive models thought to allow invasive plants to dominate native landscapes. However, if an invasive is already well established then experimental research is necessary to provide the information necessary to effectively manage the species. Prescribing appropriate management strategies without prior experimental research may not only be ineffective but also may squander limited resources or have the unintended consequence of furthering spread. Lespedeza cuneata (Dum. Cours.) G. Don. is a well-established invasive plant of old fields and tall-grass prairie in the US. Managers suspect this species shades-out native plants and this is proposed as its primary mechanism for dominance. Using field experiments we tested probable factors allowing the speices to establish itself and once established, interfere in old field plant communities. We also examined the effects of two common anthropogenic disturbances (mowing and nutrients) on L. cuneata growth and establishment. When L. cuneata was treated (clipping, herbicide and stem pull-back) there was a significant increase in species richness and native speices cover. Stem density and canopy cover of L. cuneata increased significantly with mowing frequency but decreased with nutrient input. We suggest that mowing benefits L. cuneata while also hindering woody competition. Results also indicate L. cuneata is less prevalent on nutrient enriched soils than on unamended soil. Lespedeza cuneata appears to suppress native plants by shading them out and it can subsequently take over grassland communities. Since it has a varying response to human induced disturbances and may actually benefit from mowing, land managers should be cautious when utilizing this as a management tool.
Additional publication details
Mechanisms for dominance in an early successional old field by the invasive non-native Lespedeza cuneata (Dum. Cours.) G. Don