Response of bluebunch wheatgrass to invasion: differences in competitive ability among invader‐experienced and naïve populations.

Gibson, Nelson & Atwater


I am very excited to have been a part of this publication, in which Alexis Gibson, once a fellow graduate student with me at the University of Montana, investigated evidence of evolutionary responses of bluebuch wheatgrass plants to invasion. Her findings contribute to a growing body of research showcasing the enormous potential for native plants to evolve changes in competitive ability in response to invasion.

Our recently published paper documenting shifts in the climatic niches of introduced species has been featured in an Editorial published in Nature today. A link to the article can be found here!

Climatic niche shifts are common in introduced plants.

Atwater, Ervine, Barney (link) (pdf)


I am very excited to announce that our paper has just been accepted for publication by Nature: Ecology & Evolution. In it, we show that almost 1000 invasvie plant species occupy much different climates in their introduced range than in their native range.

This finding is significant for several reasons. First, it means that species do not necessarily occupy the same environments everywhere they are found on Earth. Second, it casts doubt on the viability of using information about species’ native-range habitat preferences to predict where they will invade.

However, we found that niche shifts depended upon species growth form, life expectancy, and degree of cultivation, suggesting that ‘niche shifts’ might be predictable.

Particular congratulations go to Carissa Ervine, who contributed to this manuscript as an undergraduate student. She was responsible for assembling the first version of our database of 13 million occurrence records for 1135 species–a major undertaking!

Competition and propagule density affect sexual and clonal propagation of a weed.

Atwater, Kim, Tekiela, Barney


This study was pioneered by Wonjae Kim, an undergraduate student at Virginia Tech who designed and executed it on a grant from the Fralin Life Sciences Institute.

Wonjae confirmed that Johnsongrass establishes readily both from seed and from buried rhizome fragments, although these two modes of reproduction differed in their sensitivity to competition and soil quality. In fact, a single plant produces enough seeds and rhizomes to establish over more than a hectare (if spread out evenly)!

Wonjae’s results show that effective management of Johnsongrass must limit spread from both seeds and underground rhizomes.

A great way to ring in the new year!