Association between the success of an invasive macrophyte, environmental variables and abundance of a competing native macrophyte.
The success of invasive species depends on the overcoming of abiotic and biotic filters. Abiotic variables likely have greater relative importance over invasion at broad spatial scales, while biotic interactions are more important at fine spatial scales. In this study, we tested the hypotheses that (i) the abundance of the invasive Hydrilla verticillata is more correlated with abiotic factors than with competing native species at broad spatial grain; and that (ii) H. verticillata abundance is more correlated with competing native species than with abiotic factors at fine spatial grain. Here, we considered spatial scale as the grain size (i.e., the extent of sampling unit) assuming broad spatial scales as a large area encompassing the entire patches of macrophytes, and fine spatial scales as a small area inside one macrophyte patch. We collected the abundance of hydrilla and the competing native species along with environmental variables in a large subtropical reservoir. To evaluate how the relative importance of the abiotic factors and the competing native species vary between spatial grains we used Bayesian Generalized Linear Models. At broad grain, the abundance of the competing native species, maximum fetch (positive correlation), turbidity and conductivity (negative correlation) were the most important factors to explain the hydrilla abundance. At fine grain, alkalinity, total organic matter of the sediment and the abundance of a competitive native species (all negative correlations) were the most important variables. Our results indicate a greater importance of abiotic factors at broader grains while competitive interactions seem to be important only in the finer spatial grains. Environmental heterogeneity may explain the positive correlation between native and invasive abundances at broad grain, while the negative correlation at fine grain suggests the effect of competition. In synthesis, we show that the abiotic factors that explain the invasion success of a submerged invasive macrophyte are the same in two spatial grains, but the importance of biotic interactions changed with grain. Thus, our data suggest that models that attempt to explain the success of invasive plants, should consider spatial scales.