Competition between the invasive Impatiens glandulifera and UK native species: the role of soil conditioning and pre-existing resident communities.
Himalayan balsam (Impatiens glandulifera) is a highly invasive annual herb that has become extremely prevalent in riparian zones across the UK. The competitive ability of I. glandulifera, both in terms of resource exploitation and allelopathy (i.e., the release of biochemicals that may be toxic to neighbouring plants), is considered a key determinant of its success. Little is known, however, about the effects of the resident community on the establishment and growth of I. glandulifera. Here, we aim to increase our understanding of the competitive ability of this highly invasive plant by investigating the effects of soil conditioning on the performance of four co-occurring native species (Tanacetum vulgare, Urtica dioica, Chelidonium majus and Arabidopsis thaliana). In addition, we also aim to investigate the effect that the pre-existing species composition have on the performance of I. glandulifera seedlings by establishing artificial communities (monocultures and mixtures of four UK native species, including U. dioica). We found negative effects of soil conditioning by I. glandulifera in all four species, either by reducing above-ground biomass, chlorophyll content or both. Monocultures of U. dioica were the only artificial communities that reduced growth of I. glandulifera, and we did not find any support for the idea that a more diverse community may be more resistant to invasion. Our results confirm the high competitive ability of I. glandulifera and highlight how the identity of the natives in the resident community may be key to limit its success.