Interference from crested wheatgrass (Agropyron cristatum [L.] Gaertn.) seedlings is considered a major obstacle to native species establishment in rangeland ecosystems; however, estimates of interference at variable seedling densities have not been defined fully. We conducted greenhouse experiments using an addition-series design to characterize interference between crested wheatgrass and four key native species. Crested wheatgrass strongly interfered with the aboveground growth of Wyoming big sagebrush (Artemisia tridentata Nutt. subsp. wyomingensis Beetle & Young), rubber rabbitbrush (Ericameria nauseosa [Pall. ex Pursh] G. L. Nesom & Baird subsp. consimilis [Greene] G. L. Nesom & Baird), and to a lesser extent with bluebunch wheatgrass (Pseudoroegneria spicata [Pursh] A. Löve). Alternatively, bottlebrush squirreltail (Elymus elymoides [Raf.] Swezey subsp. californicus [J. G. Sm.] Barkworth) and crested wheatgrass had similar effects on each other's growth, and interference ratios were near 1.0. Results indicate that the native grasses more readily establish in synchrony with crested wheatgrass than these native shrubs, but that once established, the native shrubs are more likely to coexist and persist with crested wheatgrass because of high niche differentiation (e.g., not limited by the same resource). Results also suggest that developing strategies to minimize interference from crested wheatgrass seedlings emerging from seed banks will enhance the establishment of native species seeded into crested wheatgrass–dominated communities.
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Vol. 63 • No. 4