Invasive Species Compendium

Detailed coverage of invasive species threatening livelihoods and the environment worldwide

Abstract

Plant invasion alters trait composition and diversity across habitats.

Abstract

Increased globalization has accelerated the movement of species around the world. Many of these nonnative species have the potential to profoundly alter ecosystems. The mechanisms underpinning this impact are often poorly understood, and traits are often overlooked when trying to understand and predict the impacts of species invasions on communities. We conducted an observational field experiment in Canada's first National Urban Park, where we collected trait data for seven different functional traits (height, stem width, specific leaf area, leaf percent nitrogen, and leaf percent carbon) across an abundance gradient of the invasive Vincetoxicum rossicum in open meadow and understory habitats. We assessed invasion impacts on communities, and associated mechanisms, by examining three complementary functional trait measures: community-weighted mean, range of trait values, and species' distances to the invader in trait space. We found that V. rossicum invasion significantly altered the functional structure of herbaceous plant communities. In both habitats V. rossicum changed the community-weighted means, causing invaded communities to become increasingly similar in their functional structure. In addition, V. rossicum also reduced the trait ranges for a majority of traits indicating that species are being deterministically excluded in invaded communities. Further, we observed different trends in the meadow and understory habitats: In the understory, resident species that were more similar to V. rossicum in multivariate trait space were excluded more, however this was not the case in the meadow habitat. This suggests that V. rossicum alters communities uniquely in each habitat, in part by creating a filter in which only certain resident species are able to persist. This filtering process causes a nonrandom reduction in species' abundances, which in turn would be expected to alter how the invaded ecosystems function. Using trait-based frameworks leads to better understanding and prediction of invasion impacts. This novel framework can also be used in restoration practices to understand how invasion impacts communities and to reassemble communities after invasive species management.