Invasive Species Compendium

Detailed coverage of invasive species threatening livelihoods and the environment worldwide

Abstract

Soil fertility alters the nature of plant-resource interactions in invaded grassland communities.

Abstract

Resource competition theory suggests that the nature of diversity-resource-invasibility interactions will vary along fertility gradients, concurrent with changes in the relative availability of limiting above- versus below-ground resources. Experimental support for this contingency is lacking. Here, we manipulated resident diversity, baseline fertility, and the availabilities of light and soil nitrogen in grassland communities invaded by two functionally distinct non-native plant species (Lolium arundinaceum and Melilotus alba). We tested the hypotheses that increased resident diversity reduces community invasibility and dampens the effects of light and soil nitrogen pulses, and that the relative effects of light versus soil nitrogen additions on diversity-invasibility relationships depend on the baseline fertility of the study system. Our results reveal an overall weak negative effect of resident diversity on Lolium performance, but in contrast to our expectations, this diversity effect did not vary with light or soil nitrogen additions or with baseline fertility. However, the relative effects of above- versus below-ground resource additions on invader performance varied with baseline fertility as expected: Lolium responded most strongly to soil nitrogen additions in low-fertility mesocosms and most strongly to increased light availability in high-fertility mesocosms. In contrast to Lolium, nitrogen-fixing Melilotus was overall less responsive to diversity and resource manipulations. Together, these patterns do not lend support for the dependence of diversity-resource-invasibility relationships on either baseline fertility or invasive species identity, but they do highlight the dominant role of resources over diversity in determining invader performance, as well as the manner in which fertility alters the relative importance of above- versus below-ground resource pulses in promoting invasions.