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Gone but Not Forgotten? Invasive Plants' Legacies on Community and Ecosystem Properties

  • Jeffrey D. Corbin (a1) and Carla M. D'Antonio (a2)

The widespread recognition that nonnative plants can have significant biological and economic effects on the habitats they invade has led to a variety of strategies to remove them. Removal alone, however, is often not sufficient to allow the restoration of altered communities or ecosystems. The invasive plant's effects may persist after its removal thus exerting a “legacy” that influences community composition or the ecosystem properties or both over some ensuing period. Here, we review evidence of such legacy effects on plant and soil communities, soil chemistry, and soil physical structure. We discuss this evidence in the context of efforts to restore community composition and ecosystem function in invaded habitats. Legacies are especially likely to develop in cases where invasive species cause local extirpations of resident species, alter resource pools, and interact with other aspects of global change including land-use changes, atmospheric N deposition, acid rain, and climate change. In cases where legacies of invasive plants develop, the removal of the nonnative species must also be accompanied by strategies to overcome the legacies if restoration goals are to be achieved.

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