Carduus acanthoides and Carduus nutans (plumeless and musk thistles) are among the most noxious weeds in the United States of America, presenting a serious challenge in cropping and pasture systems. Unfortunately, a lack of detailed spatial distribution information hampers both our ability to understand the factors affecting their invasive success, and the effectiveness of monitoring and management efforts. To examine patterns of distribution and co-occurrence at a local level, we sampled a 5000 km2 area of central Pennsylvania that cut a transect across known areas of C. acanthoides and C. nutans infestation. A number of potential environmental explanatory variables were recorded and analyzed to examine whether they correlated with observed species distribution patterns. Patterns of forest density and spatial aggregation of the thistles were the primary covariates that significantly impacted both species' distributions. The survey established that the frequency of sightings for each species diminished as the ranges converged, with only brief overlap: the two species are strongly negatively correlated in space. Understanding environmental correlates of infestation and the pattern of spatial dissociation of these two invasive species is an important step towards an improved understanding of the mechanisms underlying their invasive potential, and hence towards effective weed control.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics