Authors: Chhaya M. Werner, Kurt J. Vaughn, Katharine L. Stuble, Kristina Wolf, and Truman P. Young
Abstract: The order of species arrival can dramatically alter the trajectory of community development. While there is experimental evidence that priority effects can be important drivers of community structure early on, the persistence and duration of these effects is unclear. Here we report on a community assembly experiment in which a mix of four native grasses and a mix of four native forbs were planted on their own, together, or with one-year priority over the other guild. We found positive effects of priority for both grasses and forbs in the initial years of the experiment. However, 6-8 years after planting the effectiveness of priority treatments were mixed. Some species became rare, persisting only in treatments in which they had been given priority; others continued to maintain high cover and exhibit a strong positive signal of priority effects; still others remained common but no longer showed a signature of the initial priority effects; and finally, some species became locally extinct across all experimental plots. Grass priority over forbs was strong and persistent, but not forb priority over grasses. Our results demonstrate that the long-term benefits of temporal priority can persist for at least eight years for some, but not all species, and these continued effects result in distinct community composition. Manipulating the trajectory of community assembly through priority in seeding has potential as a useful tool for restoration.
Key words: Nassella, Stipa, Lupinus, Hordeum, Achillea, contingency, assembly, succession