Spotted knapweed spread and plant community changes in a lacustrine dune system

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By Jordan M Marshall

Purdue University

Spotted knapwed is a non-native species that has colonized the Grand Sable Dunes. Between survey years (2003-2018), it has become a dominant, important species in areas once uninvaded, may be facilitating stabilization and converging communities.

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Version 1.0 - published on 06 Mar 2020 doi:10.4231/MV4D-FF43 - cite this Archived on 06 Apr 2020

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NMDS ordination of transects in areas originally not invaded (circles) and invaded by spotted knapweed (squares) in 2003 (open symbols) and 2018 (closed symbols). Larger symbols represent mean values with standard error bars.


Perched sand dunes are vulnerable ecosystems along the Great Lakes, including Grand Sable Dunes in Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore. Spotted knapweed is a non-native plant species that has colonized these dunes and spread into increasingly more areas of the ecosystem. I conducted plant surveys in areas with and without spotted knapweed in 2003, and then resurveyed those areas in 2018. Frequency of spotted knapweed increased in both areas surveyed. Additionally, dominance shifted with spotted knapweed becoming the most important species in the area originally invaded and third most important in the area originally uninvaded. There were approximately 2/3 of species shared between the two survey years, but twelve of 29 species added in 2018 were woody. Species richness increased between years, as did species diversity. Nonmetric multidimensional scaling ordination displayed community shifts as convergent succession. While the plant communities in the two areas were rather dissimilar in 2003, they converged as overlapping communities in 2018. Additionally, the shift between years in the area originally invaded was smaller compared to the shift between years in the area originally uninvaded. Due to the continuous evolution of plant communities within sand dune ecosystems, there is a need to monitor changes and quantify non-native species spread patterns. Dominance by spotted knapweed may be facilitating dune stabilization and converging communities along a modified successional trajectory.

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