Differences in functional traits between invasive and native Amaranthus species under different forms of N deposition.
Differences in functional traits between invasive and native plant species are believed to determine the invasion success of the former. Increasing amounts of anthropogenic nitrogen (N) are continually deposited into natural ecosystems, which may change the relative occurrence of the different N deposition forms (such as NH4-N, NO3-N, and CO(NH2)2-N) naturally deposited. Under high N deposition scenarios, some invasive species may grow faster, gaining advantage over native species. In a greenhouse experiment, we grew invasive and native Amaranthus species from seed both alone and in competition under simulated N enriched environments with different forms of N over 3 months. Then, we measured different leaf traits (i.e., plant height, leaf length, leaf width, leaf shape index, specific leaf area (SLA), and leaf chlorophyll and N concentrations). Results showed that the competition intensity between A. retroflexus and A. tricolor decreased under N deposition. This may be due to the large functional divergence between A. retroflexus and A. tricolor under simulated N deposition. Phenotypic plasticity of SLA and leaf chlorophyll concentration of A. retroflexus were significantly lower than in A. tricolor. The lower range of phenotypic plasticity of SLA and leaf chlorophyll concentration of A. retroflexus may indicate a fitness cost for plastic functional traits under adverse environments. The restricted phenotypic plasticity of SLA and leaf chlorophyll concentration of A. retroflexus may also stabilize leaf construction costs and the growth rate. Meanwhile, the two Amaranthus species possessed greater plasticity in leaf N concentration under NO3-N fertilization, which enhanced their competitiveness.