Responses of grassland arthropods to an invasion by nonnative grasses

Erik M. Andersen, Marion N. Cambrelin, Robert J. Steidl

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

12 Scopus citations


In grassland ecosystems, invasions by nonnative grasses typically decrease floristic diversity and structural heterogeneity in ways that alter the quantity and quality of habitat for animals. Grassland arthropods that rely directly on herbaceous plants for food, shelter, or as substrates for reproduction are especially vulnerable to these invasions because many have evolved specialized relationships with host plants that might be displaced. We evaluated how invasions by nonnative grasses affected abundance and richness of foliage-dwelling arthropods in semidesert grasslands of Arizona, USA. On 90, 3.1-ha plots established along a gradient of invasion where dominance of nonnative grasses ranged from 0 to nearly 100% of grass cover, we captured > 90,000 arthropods from 11 orders during 270 surveys in 2014 and 2015. Although the invasion by nonnative grasses (primarily Eragrostis lehmanniana and secondarily E. curvula) increased the amount of herbaceous foliage available to arthropods, richness of arthropods decreased by an average of 2% and total abundance by an average of 7% for every 10% increase in nonnative-grass dominance. Responses to the plant invasion, however, varied among taxa and functional groups. As dominance of nonnative grasses increased, abundances of most predators and specialist herbivores decreased, whereas abundances of most generalist herbivores were lowest at intermediate points of the invasion gradient. The changes we observed in the arthropod community have potential to alter broad-scale ecological processes, including energy flow and nutrient cycling, and to reduce food resources for insectivores, which can have adverse, cascading effects on imperiled grassland ecosystems.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)405-416
Number of pages12
JournalBiological Invasions
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 15 2019


  • Eragrostis lehmanniana
  • Exotic species
  • Insect
  • Invasive species
  • Invertebrate
  • Semidesert

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Ecology


Dive into the research topics of 'Responses of grassland arthropods to an invasion by nonnative grasses'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this