Biological Invasions

, Volume 12, Issue 9, pp 3289–3298 | Cite as

Disturbance-mediated competition: the interacting roles of inundation regime and mechanical and herbicidal control in determining native and invasive plant abundance

  • Shon S. Schooler
  • Tony Cook
  • Graham Prichard
  • Alice G. Yeates
Original Paper


Disturbance is a key component of many successful plant invasions. However, interactions among natural and anthropogenic disturbances and effects of these interacting disturbances on invasive plants and desired vegetation are rarely examined. We investigated the effect of anthropogenic disturbance (herbicidal and mechanical) along a natural inundation gradient (20–282 days) on the biomass and resource allocation of the invasive wetland plant, alligator weed (Alternanthera philoxeroides), and two co-occurring competitor plants, the introduced grass, kikuyu (Pennisetum clandestinum), and the native grass, couch (Cynodon dactylon), over a 2-year period. In the absence of additional disturbance, kikuyu biomass was negatively affected, alligator weed biomass was positively affected, and couch biomass was not affected by inundation disturbance. In addition, kikuyu was not affected by the selective removal of alligator weed, while couch increased in wetter habitats where kikuyu was absent due to inundation stress. This suggests that kikuyu is a superior competitor in drier habitats and inundation facilitates the invasion of alligator weed, while couch is an inferior competitor to both kikuyu and alligator weed and is therefore suppressed across its entire niche by these two introduced species. Mowing alone had no effect on the biomass of the species, suggesting the plants are equally tolerant of shoot removal. Selective herbicide reduced alligator weed biomass by 97.5% and the combination of selective herbicide and mowing reduced the biomass of alligator weed significantly more than herbicide alone, by 98.6% compared with un-manipulated controls. To predict community change and prevent sequential exotic plant invasions after weed removal, it is necessary to consider the interacting effects of disturbance and the niche space of invasive species in the local propagule pool.


Flooding Herbicide tolerance Hydrology Invasive alien species Metsulfuron Grazing Weed invasion 



We thank Drew Johnston for the use of his property for the trial site. Celine Clech-Goods and Gio Fichera assisted greatly in the collection and processing of biomass samples. Rieks van Klinken and two anonymous reviewers provided constructive comments that significantly improved this manuscript. Funding was provided to S. Schooler by L&W Australia and DAFF through the Defeating the Weed Menace Program and by the Australian Weed Research Centre.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  • Shon S. Schooler
    • 1
  • Tony Cook
    • 2
  • Graham Prichard
    • 3
  • Alice G. Yeates
    • 4
  1. 1.CSIRO EntomologyIndooroopillyAustralia
  2. 2.NSW Department of Primary IndustriesCalalaAustralia
  3. 3.Port Stephens CouncilRaymond TerraceAustralia
  4. 4.School of Biological SciencesUniversity of QueenslandSt LuciaAustralia

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