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2013 Master's Level Graduate Research Conference

Session I - Session II - Session III

Relating Soil Fertility and Plant Competition to Common Buckthorn (Rhamnus cathartica L.) Invasion Success

Rhamnus cathartica L. (common buckthorn) is a deciduous shrub or small tree that has invaded disturbed areas, open fields and meadows, wetlands, and young forests throughout New York. Buckthorn decreases native plant abundance directly through competition and indirectly by increasing soil nitrogen content, nitrogen and carbon cycling rates, and decomposition rates. Previous work has shown that buckthorn seedlings have higher mortality rates when grown under native herbaceous plants; however, the inhibitory effects of native competitors may be less pronounced in low fertility environments. Thus, buckthornís ecosystem-altering properties may provide buckthorn a competitive advantage in low fertility environments, such as abandoned agricultural fields common in western New York. In this project, the combined effects of competition and soil nitrogen availability on buckthorn growth are investigated. Buckthorn seedlings were transplanted into experimental plots in which three levels of competition (above-ground, below-ground, and no competition) were combined in a factorial design with three levels of soil fertility (increased, decreased, and ambient). The plots were established in three successional habitats (meadows, shrublands, and forest edges) in six locations across western New York. Buckthorn growth and photosynthetic rates will be measured throughout the 2013 growing season. When completed, this research will be used to determine how competitive ability and soil fertility interact to influence buckthorn invasion success in order to improve buckthorn management strategies.

Presenter: Julia York (The College at Brockport SUNY) -- jyork1@u.brockport.edu
Topic: Environmental Science & Resource Management - Panel
Location: 217 Hartwell
Time: 9:15 am (Session I)