Stress tolerance and ecophysiological ability of an invader and a native species in a seasonally dry tropical forest.
Ecophysiological traits of Prosopis juliflora (Sw.) DC. and a phylogenetically and ecologically similar native species, Anadenanthera colubrina (Vell.) Brenan, were studied to understand the invasive species' success in caatinga, a seasonally dry tropical forest ecosystem of the Brazilian Northeast. To determine if the invader exhibited a superior resource-capture or a resource-conservative strategy, we measured biophysical and biochemical parameters in both species during dry and wet months over the course of two years. The results show that P. juliflora benefits from a flexible strategy in which it frequently outperforms the native species in resource capture traits under favorable conditions (e.g., photosynthesis), while also showing better stress tolerance (e.g., antioxidant activity) and water-use efficiency in unfavorable conditions. In addition, across both seasons the invasive has the advantage over the native with higher chlorophyll/carotenoids and chlorophyll a/b ratios, percent N, and leaf protein. We conclude that Prosopis juliflora utilizes light, water and nutrients more efficiently than Anadenanthera colubrina, and suffers lower intensity oxidative stress in environments with reduced water availability and high light radiation.