Invasive Species Compendium

Detailed coverage of invasive species threatening livelihoods and the environment worldwide

Abstract

Similarities in recruitment but differences in persistence in two related native and invasive trees: relevance of regenerative and vegetative attributes.

Abstract

Ecological theory predicts that the success of exotic plants in new environments depends on a combination of both regenerative and vegetative attributes. Identifying those attributes may benefit from approaches that specifically compare related exotic and native species, thereby overcoming strong habitat dependence and phylogenetic bias. Gleditsia triacanthos L. (Fabaceae) is described as an aggressive woody invader in a broad range of ecosystems of Argentina, where it coexists with other leguminous trees. In the present study, we assessed whether the success of G. triacanthos in the lower areas of Chaco woodlands of central Argentina is determined (1) by differences from the dominant native, Prosopis alba, in its combination of several attributes that enhance the invader's competitive ability, (2) by differences from P. alba in few key attributes that facilitate its spread, or (3) by strong functional similarities in response to environmental filtering by the invaded system. Our comparison of 19 functional traits of both species showed that regenerative and vegetative trends may vary independently, and that two contrasting strategies seem to underlie the success of G. triacanthos in this region. On the one hand, the invader might benefit by sharing regenerative attributes with the native relative that dominates the community, which is evidently a successful way of recruiting in the system. On the other hand, as recruitment is ensured, the species differs in several vegetative attributes, which may enhance its competitive ability in terms of growth rates and nutrient uptake.