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Title: Susceptibility of burned black spruce (Picea mariana) forests to non-native plant invasions in interior Alaska

Author: Spellman, Katie V.; Mulder, Christa P.H.; Hollingsworth, Teresa N.;

Date: 2014

Source: Biological Invasions

Publication Series: Scientific Journal (JRNL)

Description: As climate rapidly warms at high-latitudes, the boreal forest faces the simultaneous threats of increasing invasive plant abundances and increasing area burned by wildfire. Highly flammable and widespread black spruce (Picea mariana) forest represents a boreal habitat that may be increasingly susceptible to non-native plant invasion. This study assess the role of burn severity, site moisture and time elapsed since burning in determining the invisibility of black spruce forests. We conducted field surveys for presence of non-native plants at 99 burned black spruce forest sites burned in 2004 in three regions of interior Alaska that spanned a gradient of burn severities and site moisture levels, and a chronosequence of sites in a single region that had burned in 1987, 1994, and 1999. We also conducted a greenhouse experiment where we grew invasive plants in vegetation and soil cores taken from a subset of these sites. In both our field survey and the greenhouse experiment, regional differences in soils and vegetation between burn complexes outweighed local burn severity or site moisture in determining the invasibility of burned black spruce sites. In the greenhouse experiments using cores from the 2004 burns, we found that the invasive focal species grew better in cores with soil and vegetation properties characteristic of low severity burns. Invasive plant growth in the greenhouse was greater in cores from the chronosequence burns with higher soil water holding capacity or lower native vascular biomass. We concluded that there are differences in susceptibility to non-native plant invasions between different regions of boreal Alaska based on native species regeneration. Reestablishment of native ground cover vegetation, including rapidly colonizing bryophytes, appear to offer burned areas a level of resistance to invasive plant establishment.

Keywords: Boreal forest, Bromus inermis ssp. inermis, Climate change, Disturbance, Fire, Hieracium aurantiacum, Melilotus albus, Wildfire

Publication Notes:

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Spellman, Katie V.; Mulder, Christa P.H.; Hollingsworth, Teresa N. 2014. Susceptibility of burned black spruce (Picea mariana) forests to non-native plant invasions in interior Alaska. Biological Invasions. 16: 1879-1895.


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