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Climate change and disturbance can alter invasion success of clonal plants by differentially affecting the clonal traits influencing their establishment as young plants. Clonal traits related to the vegetative reproduction of native Pascopyrum smithii and non-native Bromus inermis grass seedlings were evaluated under altered precipitation frequencies and a single grazing event. Pascopyrum smithii maintained similar vegetative reproduction under three simulated precipitation frequencies whereas B. inermis vegetative reproduction declined as precipitation became more intermittent. Vegetative reproduction of the non-native B. inermis was greater than the native P. smithii under all simulated precipitation frequencies except the most intermittent scenario. A single grazing event did not affect either species’ response to intra-annual precipitation variability but did slightly reduce their clonal growth and increase their bud dormancy. In young plants, clonal traits of the invasive grass favored its superior expansion and population growth compared to the native grass except under the most severe climate change scenario. Grassland restoration using native P. smithii seeds would be successful in most years due to its resilient clonal growth in a changing climate. Clonal infrastructure development in young plants is critical to clonal plant establishment and persistence in a changing climate and under disturbed conditions.
Article number: 2860
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Bam, S., Ott, J.P., Butler, J.L. et al. Belowground mechanism reveals climate change impacts on invasive clonal plant establishment. Sci Rep 12, 2860 (2022). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41598-022-06918-w