Competition and Other Barriers to Establishment of a Native Perennial Grass (Elymus elymoides) in Alien Annual Grass (Bromus tectorum) Communities

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Journal of Arid Environments



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The alien grass Bromus tectorum dominates stable annual-plant communities that have replaced native shrub-perennial grass communities over much of the semi-arid western United States. We conducted field competition experiments between B. tectorum and a native grass, Elymus elymoides, on two sites to determine the effects of B. tectorum competition on perennial grasses, and the role of B. tectorum competition in the stability of B. tectorum-dominated communities. B. tectorum competition acting on seedling-stage E. elymoides plants greatly reduced first-year relative growth rates and biomass which, in turn, reduced second-year survival, biomass, and flowering. However, B. tectorum competition acting on older E. elymoides plants had much less effect, which may help to explain why intact perennial-plant communities are resistant to B. tectorum invasion. At the drier site, direct effects of B. tectorum competition were less, but competition and drier habitat combined to produce greater E. elymoides mortality.