Knowledge of environmental factors influencing demography of weed species will improve understanding of current and future weed invasions. The objective of this study was to quantify regional-scale variation in vital rates of giant ragweed and common sunflower . To accomplish this objective, a common field experiment was conducted across seven sites between 2006 and 2008 throughout the north central U.S. maize belt. Demographic parameters of both weed species were measured in intra- and interspecific competitive environments, and environmental data were collected within site-years. Site was the strongest predictor of belowground vital rates (summer and winter seed survival and seedling recruitment), indicating sensitivity to local abiotic conditions. However, biotic factors influenced aboveground vital rates (seedling survival and fecundity). Partial least squares regression (PLSR) indicated that demography of both species was most strongly influenced by thermal time and precipitation. The first PLSR components, both characterized by thermal time, explained 63.2% and 77.0% of variation in the demography of giant ragweed and common sunflower, respectively; the second PLSR components, both characterized by precipitation, explained 18.3% and 8.5% of variation, respectively. The influence of temperature and precipitation is important in understanding the population dynamics and potential distribution of these species in response to climate change.
Nomenclature: Giant ragweed, Ambrosia trifida L. AMBTR; common sunflower, Helianthus annuus L. HELAN; maize, Zea mays L.; soybean, Glycine max (L.) Merr.