Priority effects can be used to promote target species during restoration. Early planting can provide an advantage over later-arriving species, increasing abundance of these early-arrivers in restored communities. However, we have limited knowledge of the indirect impacts of priority effects in restoration. In particular, we do not understand how priority effects impact non-target species. Of particular conservation concern is how these priority effects influence establishment by non-native species. We use a field-based mesocosm experiment to explore the impacts of priority effects on both target and non-target species in California grasslands. Specifically, we seeded native grasses and forbs, manipulating order of arrival by planting them at the same time, planting forbs one year before grasses, planting grasses one year before forbs, or planting each functional group alone. While our study plots were tilled and weeded for the first year, the regional species pool was heavily invaded. We found that, while early-arrival of native grasses did not promote establishment of non-native species, giving priority to native forbs ultimately left our restoration mesocosms vulnerable to invasion by non-native species. This suggests that, in some cases, establishment of non-native species may be an unintended consequence of using priority treatments as a restoration tool.
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