Citation Pattison Z, Whytock R & Willby N (2017) Invasion legacy effects versus sediment deposition as drivers of riparian vegetation (Forthcoming/Available Online), Biological Invasions.
Abstract Riparian zones are formed by interactions between fluvio-geomorphological processes, such as sediment deposition, and biota, such as vegetation. Establishment of invasive alien plant (IAP) species along rivers may influence vegetation dynamics, evidenced as higher seasonal or inter-annual fluctuations in native plant diversity when IAP cover is high. This could impact the overall functioning of riparian ecosystems. Conversely, fine sediment deposited in riparian zones after floods may replenish propagule banks, thus supporting recruitment of native species. The interactive effects of invasion and fine sediment deposition have hitherto, however, been ignored. Vegetation surveys across rivers varying in flow regime were carried out over 2 years to assess changes in community composition and diversity. Artificial turf mats were used to quantify over-winter sediment deposition. The viable propagule bank in soil and freshly deposited sediment was then quantified by germination trials. Structural Equation Models were used to assess causal pathways between environmental variables, IAPs and native vegetation. Greater variation in flow increased the cover of IAPs along riverbanks. An increased in high flow events and sediment deposition were positively associated with the diversity of propagules deposited. However, greater diversity of propagules did not result in a more diverse plant community at invaded sites, as greater cover of IAPs in summer reduced native plant diversity. Seasonal turnover in the above-ground vegetation was also accentuated at previously invaded sites, suggesting that a legacy of increased competition in previous years, not recent sediment deposition, drives above-ground vegetation structure at invaded sites. The interaction between fluvial disturbance via sediment deposition and invasion pressure is of growing importance in the management of riparian habitats. Our results suggest that invasion can uncouple the processes that contribute to resilience in dynamic habitats making already invaded habitats vulnerable to further invasions.