Dominance of an alien shrub Rhus typhina over a native shrub Vitex negundo var. heterophylla under variable water supply patterns.
Temporal heterogeneity of a resource supply can have a profound effect on the interactions between alien and native plant species and their potential invasiveness. Precipitation patterns may be variable and result in a higher heterogeneity of water supply with global climate change. In this study, an alien shrub species, Rhus typhina, introduced to China from North America and a native shrub species, Vitex negundo var. heterophylla, were grown in monoculture and mixed culture under different water supply regimes, with four levels of water supply frequencies but with a constant level of total supplied water. After 60 days of treatments, the alien species was found to be the superior competitor in the mixed culture and was unaffected by changes in the water supply pattern. The dominance of R. typhina was mainly owing to its greater biomass and effective modulation of leaf physiology. However, in the mixed culture, V. negundo var. heterophylla exhibited both leaf- and whole-plant-level acclimations, including higher leaf length to petiole length and root to shoot biomass ratios, and lower specific leaf weight and leaf length to leaf width ratio. Plant height of V. negundo var. heterophylla was comparable to that of R. typhina in the mixed culture, which is a strategy to escape shading. Although water treatments had little effect on most traits in both species, the possible influence of water regimes should not be neglected. Compared with high-frequency water supply treatments, more individuals of V. negundo var. heterophylla died in low-water-frequency treatments when in competition with R. typhina, which may lead to species turnover in the field. The authors recommended that caution should be exercised when introducing R. typhina to non-native areas in the context of global climate change.