Restoring native understory to a woodland invaded by Euonymus fortunei: multiple factors affect success.
Invasive species are capable of causing change in native plant communities, but invasion is often associated with other anthropogenic impacts on natural areas, such as habitat fragmentation and associated dispersal limitation for native species. Consequently, invasive species removal alone may not always be sufficient to meet restoration objectives. We tested if invasion and dispersal limitation interact to limit plant community restoration within a forest fragment invaded by Euonymus fortunei. Removal of Euonymus alone did not lead to the recolonization of native plant species. However, planting seedlings increased total native cover in invaded, Euonymus removal, and uninvaded control treatments. The consistent establishment of native plant seedlings across all treatments indicates that Euonymus invasion may have limited ability to displace established plants. In contrast, plant species that we added as seed were unable to establish in invaded plots, indicating that Euonymus invasion limits recruitment of native plant species from seed. Over the course of our experiment, a number of setbacks and surprises occurred, including high levels of herbivory, a windstorm, and extreme drought, all of which likely limited restoration success. Overall, our results indicate that Euonymus may contribute to native species declines, but other factors are important. Thus, invasive species removal alone may not be sufficient to reestablish a diverse native plant community. Instead, impacts on natural areas may need to be mitigated along with invasive species removal for restoration to be successful.