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Some plants from other continents outcompete native plants in our grasslands with devastating and fascinating consequences. Devastating because losses to biodiversity, habitat quality and ecosystem functions occur. Fascinating because invaders challenge our understanding of the forces that structure plant communities and determine ecosystem productivity.

Together with Dr. Dean Pearson at the Rocky Mountain Research Station in Missoula and Dr. Ozkan Eren at Adnan Menderes University in Turkey, we initiated a project to better understand plant invasions. This fall, students Birsen Karakus from Adnan Menderes University and Natasha Boote from University of Montana worked hard to collect plants from between 5 and 10 populations of six target species. They dug up plants, measured shoot dry weight, collected roots and soil, and counted and weighed seeds. This week, we will consolidate the data and see what it can tell us. Do successful invaders grow bigger, produce more and larger seeds, escape enemies, and/or associate with more and better mutualists in their exotic range (Montana) compared to their native range (Turkey)?

Birsen and Natasha

Birsen (left) collected plants and soil in Turkey and Natasha (right) collected plants and soil in Montana. They will consolidate data for their theses, which will help us understand what makes invasive plants so successful in North America.

About the Author

Ylva Lekberg

Ylva graduated from the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences with a M.Sc. in Biology and Horticulture in 1996 and a Ph.D. in Ecology from Penn State University in 2004. She received the Alumni Association Dissertation Award for her work in agroecology and subsistence farming in Sub-Saharan Africa. Post-doctoral positions at Montana State University and later at Copenhagen University as a Marie Curie Fellow have allowed her to explore the role of mycorrhiza, a root-fungus symbiosis, for geothermal plants in Yellowstone National Park and coastal grasslands in Denmark. Her research has been published in journals such as Ecology, Journal of Ecology and New Phytologist.

Ylva currently works at MPG Ranch as a soil ecologist. She explores the role of mycorrhiza in the success of exotic plants and examines the use of specific pathogens to combat invasions. In her spare time Ylva mountain-bikes, plays soccer, and maintains a large vegetable garden.