The effect of shared enemies between invasive and native species has been argued to facilitate biological invasions (i.e., the apparent competition hypothesis or ACH). This study investigated a previously untested possibility: whether granivorous small mammals facilitate cheatgrass (Bromus tectorum) invasion by driving food-mediated apparent competition between cheatgrass and native grasses. Specifically, we tested three predictions that must be true if such apparent competition occurs. First, cheatgrass invasion augments total seeds available to granivorous small mammals. Second, density of granivorous small mammals increases in response to increased seed availability (simulated with experimental additions of cheatgrass seeds). Third, granivorous small mammals prefer seeds from native grasses over cheatgrass seeds. We tested these predictions in the Great Basin Desert of Utah, USA. Cheatgrass invasion augmented total yearly seed production. Granivorous small mammals preferred native seeds over cheatgrass seeds. However, neither abundance, richness, nor diversity of granivorous small mammals increased in response to experimental additions of cheatgrass seed. We therefore conclude that granivorous small mammals did not drive food-mediated apparent competition during the study period. The lack of support for the ACH in this study may suggest that the role of small mammal-driven apparent competition is either unimportant in the Great Basin, or that the appropriate indirect interactions between small mammals, cheatgrass, and native grasses have yet to be evaluated. Testing the third prediction required the separation of seeds from the soil matrix. We employed a chemical flotation methodology to recover target seeds from soil, and developed a novel method of decanting target material from the flotation solution. We compared the utility of the novel method to that of a traditional decantation method. Specifically, we compared effectiveness (the proportion of seeds recovered from a known sample), rapidity (the time required to decant that sample), efficiency (the number of seeds decanted per second), and recovery bias (the effect of relative density on seed recovery) between methods. Our proposed method was more effective, more rapid, more efficient, and less biased than the traditional method. Therefore, any future work relying on flotation to analyze seed banks should clearly describe how samples are decanted and should consider the proposed method as a potential means of enhancing the efficiency of chemical flotation.



College and Department

Life Sciences; Plant and Wildlife Sciences



Date Submitted


Document Type





chemical flotation, dietary supplementation, granivory, plant-animal interaction, seed banks, seed enumeration, seed production, recovery bias, relative density, weed invasion