Journal article

Time to cut: population models reveal how to mow invasive common ragweed cost-effectively

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Published in:
  • NeoBiota. - 2018, vol. 39, p. 53–78
English Roadsides are an important habitat for invasive common ragweed, Ambrosia artemisiifolia L., by facilitating seed dispersal. Reducing the size of roadside populations is therefore essential for confining this highly allergenic species. Here, we aim to determine the cost-effectiveness of mowing regimes varying in frequency and timing, by analysing population-level effects and underlying demographic processes. We constructed population models of A. artemisiifolia parameterised by demographic data for four unmanaged reference populations across Europe in two years. We integrated the effects of four experimental mowing regimes along Austrian road sides on plant performance traits of five years and experimental data on seed viability after cutting. All four experimental regimes reduced the projected intrinsic population growth rates (r) compared to the unmanaged controls by reducing plant height and seed viability, thereby counteracting increased size-dependent fecundity. The prevailing 2-cut regime in Austria (cutting during vegetative growth, here in June and just before seed ripening, here in September) performed least well and the reduction in r was mainly due to reduced seed viability after the second cut. The efficacy of the two best experimental regimes (alternative schemes for 2 or 3 cuts) was mainly due to cutting just before female flowering (here in August) by decreasing final adult plant height dramatically and thereby reducing seed numbers. Patterns were consistent across reference populations and years. Whether regimes reduced r below replacement level, however, varied per population, year and the survival rate of the seeds in the soil bank. Our model allowed projecting effects of five theoretical mowing regimes with untested combinations of cuts on r. By plotting r-cost relationships for all regimes, we identified the most cost-effective schemes for each cutting frequency (1– 3 cuts). They all included the cut just before female flowering, highlighting the importance of cutting at this moment (here in August). Our work features i) the suitability of a modelling approach for the demography of an annual species with a seed bank, ii) the importance of seed viability in assessing mowing effects, iii) the use of population models in designing cost-effective mowing regimes.
Faculté des sciences et de médecine
Département de Biologie
  • English
Biological sciences
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