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Native Trees Naturally Fight Invasives in Some Eastern Forests

Photo of Japanese stiltgrass (Microstegium vimineum) spreads along a forest trail. Researchers found evidence of biotic resistance to establishment and dominance of invasive plants in some forests of the East. Stephanie Worley Firley, U.S. Department of Agriculture Forest Service.Japanese stiltgrass (Microstegium vimineum) spreads along a forest trail. Researchers found evidence of biotic resistance to establishment and dominance of invasive plants in some forests of the East. Stephanie Worley Firley, U.S. Department of Agriculture Forest Service.Snapshot : Recent research indicates that invasive plants can be found in nearly half of the forests of the eastern U.S., raising concerns about the sustainability of these ecosystems and the benefits and services they provide. The good news is that some eastern forests seem to have a natural, biotic ability to resist invasion.

Research Station : Southern Research Station (SRS)
Year : 2016
Highlight ID : 1133

Summary

Recent research indicates that invasive plants can be found in nearly half of the forests of the eastern U.S., raising concerns about the sustainability of these ecosystems and the benefits and services they provide. The good news is that some eastern forests seem to have a natural, biotic ability to resist invasion.

To understand why, a team of university and Forest Service researchers looked for clues within "big data" from the Forest Inventory and Analysis (FIA) program. Using information collected from more than 42,000 FIA research plots surveyed across the East, the researchers used innovative statistical models to study the associations between native trees and invasive plants. Their findings suggest that live tree biomass and evolutionary relationships among tree species are key factors for invasion resistance. Greater evidence of invasion resistance emerged in patterns seen in some forests of the Upper Midwest and in and around the Appalachian Mountains. These regions may exhibit ecosystem characteristics that allow native biomass and evolutionary diversity to more effectively prevent invader establishment and dominance. The researchers also found that evolutionary diversity among tree species plays a more significant role in limiting the dominance of invasive species than preventing their establishment. The researchers' use of "big data" across such a large spatial scale and their application of sophisticated evolution-based measures of biodiversity uncover trends that bring new thinking to the issue of forest invasions and the importance of native trees.

Forest Service Partners

External Partners

  • Northern Research Station
  • National Science Foundation
  • North Carolina State University
  • Purdue University

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