The cost of invasions

The catastrophic human cost of the military invasion is filling the news, but biological invasions also cause damage. A grass from Kenya was bred and planted in the southwestern US and northern Mexico for decades (and is still planted in some places) for cattle grazing, but has escaped cultivation in pastures and begun spreading across the landscape. You can see in these photos the way the bright yellow grass, called buffel grass, fills in the previously empty gaps between the iconic desert cacti and native trees like palo verde. It is already contributing to wildfires in the Sonoran Desert.


A research study I started about a decade ago was (finally!) published last week (, showing that buffel grass is reducing the establishment of native plants where it spreads, even without burning. It’s not just spreading into space that they have vacated.

This scientific article, which formed part of my doctoral dissertation, was the result of a decade of work by not just me, but by a truly tough field crew, advice and help from land managers, mentors official and unofficial who helped and encouraged me, and financial support from the Garden Club of America, Western National Parks Association, the National Science Foundation, the Tindall Conservation Bio Internship from UA EEB Dept, a UA GPSC research grant, the NASA Arizona Space Grant Fellowship, and more I probably forgot.


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