Wetlands Ecology and Management

, Volume 26, Issue 5, pp 751–762 | Cite as

Temporal and nonlinear dispersal patterns of Ludwigia hexapetala in a regulated river

  • Meghan J. Skaer Thomason
  • Christopher D. McCort
  • Michael D. Netherland
  • Brenda J. Grewell
Original Paper


Rivers are vulnerable to biological invasion due to hydrologic connectivity, which facilitates post-entry movement of aquatic plant propagules by water currents. Ecological and watershed factors may influence spatial and temporal dispersal patterns. Field-based data on dispersal could improve risk assessment models and management responses. Ludwigia hexapetala, an invasive emergent macrophyte, provides a case study for understanding dispersal patterns throughout a watershed. The species spreads via hydrochory and is increasingly imposing detrimental ecological and economic impacts within watersheds of the United States and Europe. We investigated morphology of shoot fragments and their dispersal in the Russian River watershed of California, capturing shoot fragments of L. hexapetala during repeated summer surveys at five locations in the river and quantifying their morphological traits that predict establishment success. Highly variable capture counts suggest the importance of pulse disturbance events in local dispersal of L. hexapetala. Unexpectedly, dispersing propagule pressure was nonlinear, with more shoot fragments captured in the middle rather than lower river. Captured fragments in the middle river were twice the length of fragments captured in the lower river and bore 83% more stem nodes, characteristics associated with greater establishment success. Our results support development of spatially targeted management, outreach, and prevention efforts that could lead to decreased propagule pressure in the watershed.


Aquatic plants Hydrochory Propagule pressure Plant invasions Riverine wetlands Watershed ecology 



This research was supported by the US Army Corps of Engineers, Engineer Research and Development Center, Aquatic Plant Control Research Program, Vicksburg, Mississippi, USA. M. Skaer Thomason received support from the USDA-ARS Pathways program for graduate student development, and a subsequent USDA post-doctoral appointment. We thank Rebecca Drenovsky, Eric Wolanski and anonymous reviewers for comments that improved the manuscript. We thank Caryn J. Futrell for chemical laboratory analyses, and Sonoma County Water Agency for technical input and access to sites. We thank Shannon Burke, Malia Forbert, Caryn J. Futrell, Alex Pluchino, and Rachel Stump for assistance in the field and laboratory.

Supplementary material

11273_2018_9605_MOESM1_ESM.pdf (129 kb)
Supplementary material 1 (PDF 128 kb)
11273_2018_9605_MOESM2_ESM.pdf (122 kb)
Supplementary material 2 (PDF 122 kb)
11273_2018_9605_MOESM3_ESM.pdf (122 kb)
Supplementary material 3 (PDF 122 kb)


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Copyright information

© This is a U.S. government work and its text is not subject to copyright protection in the United States; however, its text may be subject to foreign copyright protection  2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Meghan J. Skaer Thomason
    • 1
  • Christopher D. McCort
    • 2
  • Michael D. Netherland
    • 3
  • Brenda J. Grewell
    • 1
  1. 1.USDA-Agricultural Research Service, Exotic and Invasive Weeds Research Unit, Department of Plant Sciences MS-4University of California, DavisDavisUSA
  2. 2.Graduate Group in Biostatistics and Department of Plant Sciences MS-4University of California, DavisDavisUSA
  3. 3.US Army Engineer Research and Development Center, Center for Aquatic and Invasive PlantsUniversity of FloridaGainesvilleUSA

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