Date of Award


Degree Name

Master of Science


Plant Biology

First Advisor

Gibson, David


Historically, the tallgrass prairie (TGP) was the largest ecosystem in North America, but today only about 10-15% of the original extent exists today. Some areas have experienced more extreme loss, for example in the state of Illinois less than 0.01% of high-quality native tallgrass prairie remains. Non-native invasive species are a recent phenomenon that threatens the integrity of surviving TGP communities. Ecotypes of dominant C4 grasses are the basis of numerous cultivars, many of which are utilized in prairie restorations. In this study, the effects of three invasive species (Bromus inermis, Schedonorus phoenix, and Poa pratensis) on two lowland (`Alamo' and `Kanlow') and three upland (`Blackwell', `Cave in Rock', and `Trailblazer') cultivars of the dominant C4 grass Panicum virgatum were tested. Two simple pair-wise greenhouse experiments were established in which cultivars were sown as a monoculture or as a mixture of the cultivars with one of three invasive species. Pots were subjected to one of two water treatments with three replicates of each treatment combination. Response variables (height, number of leaves, tiller density, and biomass) and resources (soil moisture, soil pH, soil electrical conductivity, and light intensity) were measured. The greenhouse studies showed that response variables were affected by the presence of invasive species and that the time of growth affected resource levels. Resources are allocated to different areas (i.e growth and reproduction) when competition and stress are implemented on the dominant species. This study was the first to experimentally test for the presence of the physiological stress marker, trigonelline, in a prairie grass. Trigonelline was highest in upland cultivars under low moisture and highest in lowland cultivars under low moisture treatments. The results of these greenhouse studies suggest that invasive species may differentially affect cultivars of Panicum virgatum that may be sown in a prairie restoration. Performance of the P. virgatum cultivars was dependent on the timing of growth, the pot size, the invasive species, as well as soil moisture level. Therefore, when choosing a cultivar source for restoration, resources (i.e. soil moisture) should be looked into to maximize the output of the cultivar.




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