In their native range, invasive plants are held in check by negative soil-feedbacks.
The ability of some plant species to dominate communities in new biogeographical ranges has been attributed to an innate higher competitive ability and release from co-evolved specialist enemies. Specifically, invasive success in the new range might be explained by release from biotic negative soil-feedbacks, which control potentially dominant species in their native range. To test this hypothesis, we grew individuals from sixteen phylogenetically paired European grassland species that became either invasive or naturalized in new ranges, in either sterilized soil or in sterilized soil with unsterilized soil inoculum from their native home range. We found that although the native members of invasive species generally performed better than those of naturalized species, these native members of invasive species also responded more negatively to native soil inoculum than did the native members of naturalized species. This supports our hypothesis that potentially invasive species in their native range are held in check by negative soil-feedbacks. However, contrary to expectation, negative soil-feedbacks in potentially invasive species were not much increased by interspecific competition. There was no significant variation among families between invasive and naturalized species regarding their feedback response (negative vs. neutral). Therefore, we conclude that the observed negative soil feedbacks in potentially invasive species may be quite widespread in European families of typical grassland species.