Invasive herb Impatiens glandulifera has minimal impact on multiple components of temperate forest ecosystem function.
Forests understories in Europe are known to generally resist invasion, though some alien plants do invade woodland communities. Here we focused on the impact of the widespread invasive annual Impatiens glandulifera, common along watercourses, but recently spreading in forests up to timberline. We investigated its impact on plant-soil feedback and ecosystem functioning. We recorded >40 variables focusing on: soil characteristics, including micro- and macro-nutrients; characteristics of litter layer and enzyme activity in litter; and richness and species composition of the forest understory. Three treatments were followed for 3 years: plots invaded by I. glandulifera; adjacent invader removal plots within the invaded area; and spatially separated uninvaded plots outside the invaded area. The effect of year-to-year variation was generally greater than that of the treatments, especially in soil and litter characteristics. Copper and boron were higher in invaded than invader removal and uninvaded plots, though in quantities that are unlikely to harm other plants. We found no effect of I. glandulifera on litter characteristics or enzyme activity. Despite almost 80% cover of I. glandulifera, we did not detect any difference in species richness and total vegetation cover between invaded and uninvaded plots. The floristic composition differed among the uninvaded, invader removal and invaded plots across 3 years. Our results indicate that the effect of I. glandulifera on the forest community studied was minor, and largely resulted from its increased shading to other plant species. In conclusion, we show how misleading the evaluation of impacts can be if based on a single season.