Some plants like it warmer: increased growth of three selected invasive plant species in soils with a history of experimental warming.
Soil warming can affect plant performance by increasing soil nutrient availability through accelerating microbial activity. Here, we test the effect of experimental soil warming on the growth of the three invasive plant species Trifolium pratense (legume), Phleum pratense (grass), and Plantago lanceolata (herb) in the temperate-boreal forest ecotone of Minnesota (USA). Plants were grown from seed mixtures in microcosms of soils with three different warming histories over four years: ambient, ambient +1.7°C, and ambient +3.4°C. Shoot biomass of P. pratense and P. lanceolata and plant community root biomass increased significantly in soils with +3.4°C warming history, whereas T. pratense responded positively but not significantly. Soil microbial biomass and N concentration could not explain warming effects, although the latter correlated significantly with the shoot biomass of P. lanceolata. Our results indicate that soil with a warming history may benefit some invasive plants in the temperate-boreal ecotone with potential impacts on plant community composition. Future studies should investigate the impact of warming-induced differences in soil organisms and nutrients on plant invasion.