Plant invasive success associated with higher N-use efficiency and stoichiometric shifts in the soil-plant system in the Minjiang River tidal estuarine wetlands of China.
The tidal estuarine wetlands of China are rich in plant diversity, but several human-driven processes, such as species invasion, can affect the biogeochemical cycles of these ecosystems, and by changing soil conditions can inhibit the regeneration of native vegetation. We seasonally analyzed the carbon (C), nitrogen (N) and phosphorus (P) concentrations in soils and in leaves, stems and roots of the invasive species Spartina alterniflora and of the native species Cyperus malaccensis var. brevifolius Boeckeler. This latter species was analyzed both in natural non-invaded stands and in stands that had been invaded by Spartina but from which it had been removed and replaced by Cyperus. The aim was to investigate the effect of plant invasion, subsequent removal and replanting with a native species on C, N and P stoichiometry of the plant-soil system in the tidal wetlands of the Minjiang River. C and N concentrations averaged across seasons did not differ significantly among the plant species. P concentration was lower in the stems of Spartina than in the stems of the native species Cyperus but was not significantly different in the roots of the two species. The soil C and N concentrations were higher in the Spartina stand than in the Cyperus stand, whereas the soil P concentrations were not significantly different. The invasive species had a higher N-resorption capacity, N:P ratios in stem and roots, biomass, absolute growth and biomass N and had a lower relative growth rate and litter production than the native species. After the removal of the invasive plants, the regenerating native plants have a higher capacity to resorb N and lower relative growth rates. All these traits show that a conservative strategy and a high N-use efficiency and internal plant control of the N in the ecosystem underlie the invasive success of Spartina in this N-limited wetland. Relative growth rate was associated with lower plant N:P ratios, whereas absolute growth rate was associated with higher nutrient-use efficiency and lower C and N turnover and storage capacities in the biomass. Changes in soil properties produced by the establishment of an invasive plant can condition the later regeneration of native plants.