Temperate forests of eastern North America are subject to multiple invasions from non-native species that have the potential to drive long-term dynamics in biodiversity. Garlic mustard (Alliaria petiolata (M. Bieb.) Cavara and Grande) is an invasive plant in many deciduous forests, and management efforts often focus on removing this species to initiate native species restoration. Agrilus planipennis Fairmaire (emerald ash borer; Coleoptera: Buprestidae) is a non-native insect pest that has caused substantial loss of ash trees (Fraxinus spp. L.) in North America. Our goal was to understand how the herbaceous layer in an old-growth forest responded to the removal of a significant invasion of A. petiolata and the loss of Fraxinus spp. due to A. planipennis. Herbaceous diversity and environmental parameters were measured in 32 permanent plots (1 m2 each) from 2012 to 2020 in an old-growth forest remnant that had experienced A. petiolata invasion and subsequent removal as well as mortality of Fraxinus spp. due to A. planipennis. Near-total loss of Fraxinus spp. as a canopy tree was not associated with changes in the understory light environment, possibly due to rapid canopy closure by adjacent trees not susceptible to the insect. Alliaria petiolata removal was associated with changes in herbaceous species richness and possibly shifts in individual species importance. Vegetation–environment relationships remained stable throughout the sampling period, suggesting that resource-related factors that structure the herb layer prevailed throughout the changes associated with Fraxinus spp. mortality and A. petiolata management. From a natural area management perspective, our data offer support for the idea that A. petiolata removal influences herb-layer diversity and indicate that in stands with a diverse tree community, the loss of Fraxinus spp. may not directly influence understory biodiversity.
McEwan Laboratory, Drew Woods, beta diversity, canopy cover, disturbance, eastern deciduous forest, emerald ash borer, garlic mustard, herbaceous layer, old-growth, tree mortality
Buskey, Taylor M.; Maloney, Margaret E.; Chapman, Julia I.; and McEwan, Ryan W., "Herb-Layer Dynamics in an Old-Growth Forest: Vegetation–Environment Relationships and Response to Invasion-Related Perturbations" (2020). Biology Faculty Publications. 275.