Traits of Heracleum sosnowskyi plants in monostand on invaded area.
The ability of giant hogweeds to form monodominant communities and even pure monostands in invaded areas has been well documented. Understanding of the mechanisms leading to monostand formation can aid in determining the limitations of existing community ecology models and establishing an effective management plan for invasive species elimination. The aim of this observational study was to investigate traits of Heracleum sosnowskyi plants (demography, canopy structure, morphology and physiology) of the plants in a pure stand in an invaded area useful for understanding potential monostand formation mechanisms. All measurements were performed in one typical Heracleum sosnowskyi monostand located in an abandoned agriculture field located in Syktyvkar city suburb (North-east Russia). This monostand consisted of five main plant growth stages: seed, seedling, juvenile, vegetative adult, and generative adult. Plants of all stages began to grow simultaneously shortly after the snowmelt, at the same time as spring ephemeral plant species grew. The density of generative plants did not change during the vegetation period, but the density of the other plant stages rapidly decreased after the formation of a tall (up to 2-2.5 m) and dense (Leaf area index up to 6.5) canopy. The canopy captured approximately 97% of the light. H. sosnowskyi showed high (several orders of magnitude higher than average taiga zone grasses) photosynthetic water use efficiency (6-7 µM CO2/µM H2O). Formation of H. sosnowskyi monostands occurs primarily in disturbed areas with relatively rich and well-moistened soils. Early commencement of growth, rapid formation of a dense canopy, high efficiency of light and water use during photosynthesis, ability of young plants to survive in low light conditions, rapid recovery of above-ground plant parts after damage, and the high density of the soil seed bank are the most important traits of H. sosnowskyi plants for monostand formation in invaded areas.