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Keywords:

  • annual plants;
  • carbon dioxide;
  • ragweed;
  • soil disturbance;
  • urbanization

Abstract

No data are available on whether rising carbon dioxide concentration [CO2] or increased air temperature can alter the establishment and persistence of common ragweed (Ambrosia artemisiifolia L.) within a plant community following soil disturbance. To determine ragweed longevity, we exposed disturbed soil with a common seed bank population to an in situ temperature and [CO2] gradient along an urban–rural transect beginning in early 2002. No other consistent differences in meteorological variables (e.g. wind speed, humidity, PAR, tropospheric ozone) as a function of urbanization were documented over the course of the study (2002–2005). Above-ground measurements of biomass over this period demonstrated that ragweed along the transect responded to urban induced increases in [CO2]/temperature with peak biomass being observed at this location by the end of 2003. However, by the Fall of 2004, and continuing through 2005, urban ragweed populations had dwindled to a few plants. The temporal decline in ragweed populations was not associated with increased disease, herbivory or auto-allelopathy, but was part of a demographic reduction in the total number of annual plant species observed for the urban location. In a separate experiment, we showed that such a demographic shift is consistent with CO2/temperature induced increases in biomass and litter accumulation, with a subsequent reduction in germination/survival of annual plant species. Overall, these data indicate that [CO2]/temperature differences associated with urbanization may increase initial ragweed productivity and pollen production, but suggest that long-term, multi-year persistence of ragweed in the urban macro-environment may be dependent on other factors.