Mechanisms for smooth brome invasion and the possibility of an invasional meltdown

Dr. James Cahill | Professor
Department of Biological Sciences
Faculty of Science
University of Alberta

By monitoring the expansion of smooth brome into native plant communities along soil moisture gradients, Dr. Cahill and PhD student Gisela Stotz will identify factors governing the rate of expansion of this exotic invasive grass species in Alberta’s grasslands (including at the Mattheis Ranch and Roy Berg Kinsella Research Ranch). Given that smooth brome may alter resource conditions and competitive interactions in plant communities where it invades, this research will also assess potential cascading effects. Smooth brome could facilitate invasion by other species, and more importantly, it could enhance their competitive ability under field conditions, creating higher threats to biodiversity. Since smooth brome is known to have a negative impact on native plant diversity, but control strategies have historically been ineffective, information emerging from this research about the mechanisms behind the invasion and expansion of smooth brome will help to protect the province’s biodiversity.

In addition to being supported by the Rangeland Research Institute, this project has received funding from the Alberta Conservation Association (ACA) and the Becas-Chile scholarship. Further contributions were made by Mathew Trotter (Field Assistant) and Melanie Patchell (Plant ID Specialist).