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Disturbance and the (surprising?) role of ecosystem engineering in explaining spatial patterns of non-native plant establishment

Citation

Root-Bernstein, Meredith; Muñoz, Cesar; Armesto, Juan (2022), Disturbance and the (surprising?) role of ecosystem engineering in explaining spatial patterns of non-native plant establishment, Dryad, Dataset, https://doi.org/10.5061/dryad.vq83bk3sv

Abstract

The Intermediate Disturbance Hypothesis is widely considered to be wrong but is rarely tested against alternative hypotheses. It predicts that soil disturbances and herbivory have identical impacts on species richness via identical mechanisms (reduction in biomass and in competition). An alternative hypothesis is that the specific traits of disturbance agents (small mammals) and plants differentially affects richness or abundance of different plant groups. We tested these hypotheses on a degu (Octodon degus) colony in central Chile. We ask whether native and non-native forbs respond differently to degu bioturbation on runways vs. herbivory on grazing lawns. We ask whether this can explain the increase in non-native plants on degu colonies. We found that biopedturbation did not explain the locations of non-native plants. We did not find direct evidence of grazing increasing non-native herbs either, but a grazing effect appears to be mediated by grass, which is the dominant cover. Further, we provide supplementary evidence to support our interpretation that a key mechanism of non-native spread is the formation of dry soil conditions on grazing lawns. Thus ecosystem engineering (alteration of soil qualities) may be an outcome of disturbances, which each interact with specific plant traits, to create the observed pattern of non-native spread in the colony. Based on these results we propose to extend Jentsch & White’s (2019) concept of combined pulse/ disturbance events to the long-term process duality of ecosystem engineering/ disturbance.

Methods

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Usage Notes

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