Leafy Spurge (Euphorbia esula) Affects Vegetation More Than Seed Banks in Mixed-Grass Prairies of the Northern Great Plains

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Abstract

Exotic plants have the ability to modify soil seed banks in habitats they invade, but little is known about the legacy of invasion on seed banks once an exotic plant has successfully been controlled. Natural areas previously invaded by leafy spurge in the northern Great Plains typically have one of two fates following its removal: a return of native plants, or a secondary invasion of other exotic plants. It is unknown, however, if this difference in plant communities following leafy spurge control is due to seed bank differences. To answer this question, we monitored seed banks and standing vegetation for 2 yr in mixed-grass prairies that were previously invaded by leafy spurge but controlled within 5 yr of our study. We found that native plant seed banks were largely intact in areas previously invaded by leafy spurge, regardless of the current living plant community, and leafy spurge invasion history had a larger impact on cover and diversity of the vegetation than on the seed banks. Differences in plant communities following leafy spurge control do not appear to be related to the seed banks, and soil conditions may be more important in determining trajectories of these postinvasion communities.

Nomenclature: Leafy spurge, Euphorbia esula L. EPHES.

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