Eastern red cedar (Juniperus virginiana) establishment increased dramatically in the tallgrass prairie biome of North America during the last 30 years. Since many of the remaining remnant prairies occur on steep, dry, and nutrient poor sites, threatened by the invasion of native and non-native woody species, it is important to understand how an invasive species such as eastern red cedar influences key environmental factors that may determine the future trajectory of these systems and whether abiotic and biotic components of the system are resilient following cedar removal. To address these issues we: (1) investigated the influence of eastern red cedar on micro-environmental factors; (2) evaluated how these micro-environmental factors responded to eastern red cedar removal; and (3) assessed the effect of eastern red cedar on herbaceous species germination and distribution. The invasion of eastern red cedar was associated with lower surface light availability and soil temperature, as seen in prior studies, but otherwise had effects distinct from those observed in prior studies. There was no effect of cedar on soil pH, and unlike prior studies, cedar patches had higher soil moisture compared to native C4 prairie grass plots. Moreover, these effects had strong spatial signatures, with impacts of invasion on micro-environment and native vegetation differing dramatically with slope position and aspect. Three years after eastern red cedar was removed, micro-environmental factors and species composition became similar to the tree-free grass-dominated plots, indicating a significant capacity for recovery following possible cedar control. In a broader context, this study sheds light on the pathways and mechanisms driving the impacts of this biological invasion on dry, steep, nutrient poor systems and illustrates the capability of these systems to recover once the invading species is removed.
- Biological invasion
- Juniperous virginiana