Germination niche of an emergent invasive grass, Arthraxon hispidus

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Virginia Tech


Joint-head grass (Arthraxon hispidus) is a widespread nonindigenous plant species in the eastern United States. It is observed forming large monodominant patches that impact native and managed grassland systems. With such little understanding of its foundational biology or ecological impacts, leaving land managers desperate for effective control measures to manage A. hispidus invasion. We conducted a series of complementary experiments on six populations of A. hispidus to better understand how environmental factors affect seed germination. Germination is a critical life stage that allows a species to disperse. Freshly harvested seeds germinated effectively within 14 days of imbibition in the dark at 23°C, exhibiting little to no dormancy or influence by light. A pH range of 5 - 10 resulted in ≥ 80% germination, suggesting that pH will not limit colonization in other portions of the United States. Arthaxon hispidus was tolerant to abiotic stressors such as salinity and osmotic potential. The concentration required to limit germination to 50% (LD50) in the populations tested surpassed soil salinity found in the contiguous United States and some tidal systems (Frederick, MD = 354; Lincoln, MO = 354; Williamsburg, VA = 298 mM NaCl). While drought adversely affects A. hispidus germination, the LD50 occurred in moderate to more severe osmotic potentials (Frederick, MD = -0.67; Lincoln, MO = -0.37; Williamsburg, VA = -0.25 MPa) making A. hispidus expansion more likely in wetter years and regions. Constant temperature treatments resulted in germination percentages across a range of temperatures (8 - 37°C), and A. hispidus is well distributed in several major temperature regimes found in the United States. Finally, emergence greatly decreased with burial depth. Emergence occurred at ≥ 43% at 1 - 2 cm, decreasing to 5% at 6 cm, and 0% at 8-cm depths. With adequate soil moisture, a broad range of germination temperatures, and a decreased emergence rate with depth, we believe A. hispidus is unlikely to develop a seed bank. These initial studies on A. hispidus' germination posit a broad range of environmental tolerances; although, it may be limited by other life stages.



burial, ecological restoration, pH, osmotic potential temperature, salinity, wetland