Alteration of soil properties by the invasive tree Psidium cattleianum along a precipitation gradient on O'ahu Island, Hawai'i.
To test the effects of invasion by strawberry guava trees (Psidium cattleianum) on the forest soil ecosystem, we compared soil properties between pairs of adjacent native and P. cattleianum stands. We set up six study sites that had developed under different mean annual precipitation levels in the Ko'olau Mountains on the island of O'ahu, Hawai'i. Accumulated litter mass and soil pH decreased with precipitation in the native stands. Invasion by P. cattleianum increased the amount of litter and reduced the differences in soil water content and pH among the sites. We compared the decomposition process using the Tea Bag Index, which is determined by the difference in dry mass of commercially available green and rooibos teas in nylon mesh bags before and after 90 days of burial. Psidium cattleianum increased the initial litter decomposition rate irrespective of precipitation and other soil properties. On the other hand, P. cattleianum increased the long-term litter stabilization factor of the Tea Bag Index in wetter sites. The accumulation of litter was likely caused by indirect effects of P. cattleianum through the alteration of soil moisture properties. In summary, this study shows that invasion by P. cattleianum could alter the soil properties in both wet and mesic sites, suggesting the possibility of change in composition and/or function of decomposers.