Water primrose invasion changes successional pathways in an estuarine ecosystem
Santos, Maria J.
Boyer, Jennifer D.
Shapiro, Kristen D.
Ustin, Susan L.
Invasive species fundamentally change the bio-physical and ecological characteristics of the ecosystems they invade. Rapidly expanding invasive species may facilitate the spread of other invasive species, and successive invasion events may lead to novel species interactions that may push the system beyond its equilibrium state and change successional pathways. Knowing the direction of the invasion front may be useful to predict impacts of invasive species. Water primrose (Ludwigia spp.), one of the invasive floating macrophytes in the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta (hereafter, Delta), has increased in cover rapidly over the past three decades likely outcompeting native and non-native species, changing their functional relationships, with cascading effects in the macrophyte communities of the aquatic ecosystem. In this study, we analyze the directionality of water primrose invasion and assess which spaces it occupies, whether it has overcrowded or outcompeted other vegetation communities, and its implications for succession in the Delta. We used imaging spectroscopy data acquired in June of 2004, June of 2008, November of 2014, and October of 2016 for the 2500 km2 of the Delta to map the communities of submerged macrophytes, floating macrophytes, and emergent marsh. We found that water primrose cover increased fourfold in the Delta over the past 13 yr, changing significantly in the central Delta and Liberty Island region from 122 ha in 2004 to 471 ha in 2016. Water primrose expanded first by spreading over open water and submerged macrophytes and, when that habitat was exhausted, primrose invasion switched direction and encroached into emergent marsh. This bilateral expansion to both open water and the marsh is likely to change rates of succession and affect the restoration of the native Delta marshes. Understanding the mechanisms behind the expansion dynamics of this invasive will allow managers to counter its impact on newly established vulnerable marshes.
Ecological Society of America
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Khanna, Shruti, Maria J. Santos, Jennifer D. Boyer, Kristen D. Shapiro, Joaquim Bellvert, and Susan L. Ustin. 2018. "Water Primrose Invasion Changes Successional Pathways In An Estuarine Ecosystem". Ecosphere 9 (9): e02418. Wiley. doi:10.1002/ecs2.2418.
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