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Publication Date


First Advisor

Danielle D. Ignace

Document Type

Masters Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Science


Biological Sciences


Plant invasions, Elaeagnus umbellata, Roots (Botany)-Morphology, Autumn olive, Root morphology, Root biomass


Invasive plants have been known to change morphological traits in response to extreme variations in temperature and soil composition. Once landscapes are converted from their natural state, non-native plants seek out available resources and displace native species. Invasive plants possess the specialized ability to maximize below-ground biomass and allocate energy during growth that allows them to thrive within disturbed habitats. Temperature, precipitation rates and soil composition were investigated to explore potential biophysical changes in roots, nodule structure and morphology of a dominant invasive plant, Elaeagnus umbellata (autumn olive), at four population sites in western Massachusetts. Plant and soil samples were collected seasonally from October 2014 through August 2016. Below-ground root architecture, above-ground morphology of seed and fruit characteristics, along with seed bank properties were analyzed by collecting E. umbellata biomass throughout the disturbed habitat sites. Significantly different morphological plant traits and soil composition were detected throughout the four E. umbellata populations in western Massachusetts. Morphological traits such as number of root nodules and seed diameters were correlated with specific soil components, highlighting the adaptive plasticity of E. umbellata. Understanding how abiotic factors impact above and below-ground biophysical change in plant traits is crucial to understanding the potential effects of climate change on the growth dynamics, reproductive success and competitive advantage of E. umbellate as it invades new geographic regions.




[52] pages : color illustrations. Includes bibliographical references.