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  • 1 The University of Memphis Department of Biological Sciences Memphis TN 38152 USA
  • 2 The University of Northern Colorado School of Biological Sciences Greeley CO 80639 USA
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In order to better understand the factors governing community assembly on riverine islands, we conducted a greenhouse experiment that examined the effects of species interactions in combination with flooding that mimicked hydrologic gradients found on Mississippi River islands. Specifically, we examined the effects of inter and intra-specific competition and three disturbance treatments (drained, drought, and flood) on the growth performance of three island-ubiquitous herbaceous plant species (Amaranthus palmeri, Cyperus strigosus, and Xanthium strumarium). We predicted a decrease in interspecific competitive effects in disturbance treatments. Specifically, we expected A. palmeri to be most affected by flooding treatment based on its facultative upland status suggesting that it should be a poor tolerator of flooded conditions. X. strumarium and C. strigosus both facultative wetland species in their status, should tolerate flooding, but we predict that C. strigosus should have greater stress tolerance due to its perennial life history. Because we find these species coexisting at the same elevation zones on riverine islands, we also predicted stronger intraspecific competition effects. Our results indicate that disturbance indeed affected competitive interactions, but the effects were species-specific. X. strumarium showed stronger competitive effects when grown with conspecifics while C. strigosus experienced greater competition with heterospecifics under drought treatments. Based on its wetland indicator status and life history characteristics, we expected A. palmeri to exhibit a facilitative effect, as it is typically an upland species, but instead it was impacted most by interspecific competition. Our study indicates that factors other than competition, facilitation, and flood tolerance (e.g., priority effects) may be controlling island plant community dynamics, further studies are required.

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