Effects of invasive plant patch size and distance on the pollination and reproduction of native boreal plants.
In pollinator-limited ecosystems in the earliest stages of the invasion process, the effects of invasive plants on the pollination and reproduction of co-flowering native plants may be particularly sensitive to the distance between native and non-native plants. Our study tests how the distance from invasive plant patches affects the pollination and reproduction of two native boreal shrubs. We established circular sites with plots of flowering Vaccinium vitis-idaea L. and Rhododendron groenlandicum (Oeder) Kron and Judd spanning from 1 to 40 m from the site center. In 2011 and 2012, we added flowering non-native Melilotus albus Medik. to the center of sites in small patches (40 individuals) or large patches (120 individuals) and left other sites as controls. In some cases, the effects of M. albus were uniform across the 40 m distance, such as the change in V. vitis-idaea seed production when large patches of M. albus were added. In other cases, relationships with distance were found, and changes in percent pollination or seed production occurred most rapidly over the first 10 m from the patch. Our data supports the hypothesis that the detectable impact an invasive species has on the pollination of native species is affected by the spatial scale over which it is evaluated.