Enhanced activity of soil nutrient-releasing enzymes after plant invasion: a meta-analysis.
Plant invasion can significantly alter soil nutrient cycling of ecosystems. How these changes are linked to soil enzyme activities is still unknown, however, even though these are proximate agents of organic matter decomposition and nutrient release. We performed a meta-analysis of 60 case studies examining responses of 10 unique soil enzymes to plant invasion, and tested whether invaded soils differed in their enzyme activities from uninvaded soils. We also examined whether increases in soil nutrient-releasing enzyme activity were paralleled by enhanced soil nutrient availability after plant invasion. Overall, we found that plant invasion had significant impacts on the activities of seven types of soil enzymes. Plant invasion had inconsistent impacts on C-decomposing enzymes, but invaded sites had significantly higher activities of soil enzymes related to N- and P-release than noninvaded sites. Increases in nutrient-releasing enzyme activity after plant invasion ranged from +23% to +69%, which potentially results in a linear increase of soil nutrient availability in response to enhanced enzyme activities. Invaded soils also had higher nutrient stocks and soil microbial biomass than uninvaded soils. Our results suggest that enhanced activity of soil nutrient-releasing enzymes after plant invasion may accelerate nutrient cycling, potentially creating a nutrient-rich soil environment that benefits invaders and promotes their persistence, as invasive plants often appear to be more resource-demanding and competitive than native species.