Increased snow facilitates plant invasion in mixedgrass prairie


Author for correspondence:
D. Blumenthal
Tel: +1 970 492 7122
Fax:+1 970 492 7160


  • • Although global change is known to influence plant invasion, little is known about interactions between altered precipitation and invasion. In the North American mixedgrass prairie, invasive species are often abundant in wet and nitrogen (N)-rich areas, suggesting that predicted changes in precipitation and N deposition could exacerbate invasion.
  • • Here, this possibility was tested by seeding six invasive species into experimental plots of mixedgrass prairie treated with a factorial combination of increased snow, summer irrigation, and N addition.
  • • Without added snow, seeded invasive species were rarely observed. Snow addition increased average above-ground biomass of Centaurea diffusa from 0.026 to 66 g m−2, of Gypsophila paniculata from 0.1 to 7.3 g m−2, and of Linaria dalmatica from 5 to 101 g m−2. Given added snow, summer irrigation increased the density of G. paniculata, and N addition increased the density and biomass of L. dalmatica. Plant density responses mirrored those of plant biomass, indicating that increases in biomass resulted, in part, from increases in recruitment. In contrast to seeded invasive species, resident species did not respond to snow addition.
  • • These results suggest that increases in snowfall or variability of snowfall may exacerbate forb invasion in the mixedgrass prairie.