Suppression of an invasive legume by a native grass - high impact of priority effects.
Nitrogen-limited ecosystems are threatened by extensive spread of broom (Cytisus scoparius (L.) Link), a European leguminous shrub that is invasive in several countries. The establishment of invading species may, however, be suppressed by competition from native vegetation. The neighbor impact of the grass Festuca rubra subsp. commutata Gaudin on the performance of C. scoparius was studied in a greenhouse experiment with different arrival order, under low and high nitrogen supply, and with or without inoculation of nitrogen-fixing bacteria. Aboveground biomass of both species was measured after a six-months establishment period, and after a five-months regrowth period. In both periods, presence of F. rubra reduced the performance of C. scoparius as indicated by negative neighbor-effect intensity indices (NIntA). During the establishment period the competitive impact of F. rubra was highest, when planted before C. scoparius, followed by synchronous and late planting. Inoculation with rhizobia and low fertilization decreased the competitive impact of F. rubra. After cutting and regrowth priority effects of F. rubra were still visible. Interaction between the two study species was not affected anymore by inoculation, but strongly by fertilization, with highest competitive impact of F. rubra on C. scoparius under high nitrogen fertilization. In both study periods biomass of C. scoparius was negatively correlated with biomass of F. rubra. Our study provides knowledge about competition processes, which help to improve conservation and restoration measures regarding the spread of C. scoparius. Early sowing of a native grass can help to suppress the invasive species at an early stage. Competitive impact of the grass might be strengthened by high nitrogen availability.