Plant invasions result in biodiversity losses and altered ecological functions, though quantifying loss of multiple ecosystem functions presents a research challenge. Plant phylogenetic diversity correlates with a range of ecosystem functions and can be used as a proxy for ecosystem multifunctionality. Laurentian Great Lakes coastal wetlands are ideal systems for testing invasive species management effects because they support diverse biological communities, provide numerous ecosystem services, and are increasingly dominated by invasive macrophytes. Invasive cattails are among the most widespread and abundant of these taxa. We conducted a three-year study in two Great Lakes wetlands, testing the effects of a gradient of cattail removal intensities (mowing, harvest, complete biomass removal) within two vegetation zones (emergent marsh and wet meadow) on plant taxonomic and phylogenetic diversity. To evaluate native plant recovery potential, we paired this with a seed bank emergence study that quantified diversity metrics in each zone under experimentally manipulated hydroperiods. Pretreatment, we found that wetland zones had distinct plant community composition. Wet meadow seed banks had greater taxonomic and phylogenetic diversity than emergent marsh seed banks, and high-water treatments tended to inhibit diversity by reducing germination. Aboveground harvesting of cattails and their litter increased phylogenetic diversity and species richness in both zones, more than doubling richness compared to unmanipulated controls. In the wet meadow, harvesting shifted the community toward an early successional state, favoring seed bank germination from early seral species, whereas emergent marsh complete removal treatments shifted the community toward an aquatic condition, favoring floating-leaved plants. Removing cattails and their litter increased taxonomic and phylogenetic diversity across water levels, a key environmental gradient, thereby potentially increasing the multifunctionality of these ecosystems. Killing invasive wetland macrophytes but leaving their biomass in situ does not address their underlying mechanism of dominance and is less effective than more intensive treatments that also remove their litter.
Bibliographical noteFunding Information:
Funding came from EPA GLRI grant GL-00E00545. We thank intrepid field crew members Megan Davern, Kimberly Bourke, Jesse Albert, Andrew Monks, and Emily Tuchman.
- Great Lakes
- biological invasions
- ecological restoration