Impacts of alien plant invasion on native plant communities are mediated by functional identity of resident species, not resource availability
Alien plant invasion and nutrient enrichment as a result of anthropogenic landscape modification seriously threaten native plant community diversity. It is poorly understood, however, whether these two disturbances interact with the functional identity of recipient native plants to drive community change. We performed a mesocosm experiment to examine whether the interactive effects of invasion by a stoloniferous turf-grass Stenotaphrum secundatum and nutrient enrichment vary across different plant growth forms of an endangered coastal plant community. Communities contained 18 species (drawn without replacement from a pool of 31 species) with either runner, tufted or woody growth forms. Species were well-established and reproductively mature prior to S. secundatum introduction. Species growth (% cover), reproductive output, soil temperature and light availability were monitored for two growing seasons. Invasion and nutrient enrichment (two levels: 'natural control' and 'enriched') had no effect on species richness, community composition, reproductive output, soil temperature or light penetration. There was no interactive effect of nutrients and invasion on community productivity (i.e. final biomass), such that invasion caused a reduction in community biomass at both natural and enriched nutrient levels. This was driven only by reduced biomass of functionally-similar native runner species, which share similar root morphologies and nutrient-acquisition strategies with S. secundatum. Our study indicates that impacts of invasion are dependent upon the functional identity of species within recipient communities, not the availability of resources. This shows that management cannot buffer invader effects by manipulating resource availability. Revegetation strategies should target functionally-similar natives for replacement following invader control.
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