Invasion windows for a global legume invader are revealed after joint examination of abiotic and biotic filters.
Successful alien plant invasion is influenced by both climate change and plant-plant interactions. We estimate the single and interactive effects of competition and extreme weather events on the performance of the global legume invader Lupinus polyphyllus (Lindl.). In three experimental studies we assessed (i) the stress tolerance of seedling and adult L. polyphyllus plants against extreme weather events (drought, fluctuating precipitation, late frost), (ii) the competitive effects of L. polyphyllus on native grassland species and vice versa, and (iii) the interactive effects of extreme weather events and competition on the performance of L. polyphyllus. Drought reduced growth and led to early senescence of L. polyphyllus but did not reduce adult survival. Fluctuating precipitation events and late frost reduced the length of inflorescences. Under control conditions, interspecific competition reduced photosynthetic activity and growth of L. polyphyllus. When subjected to competition during drought, L. polyphyllus conserved water while simultaneously maintaining high assimilation rates, demonstrating increased water use efficiency. Meanwhile, native species had reduced performance under drought. In summary, the invader gained an advantage under drought conditions through a smaller reduction in performance relative to its native competitors but was competitively inferior under control conditions. This provides evidence for a possible invasion window for this species. While regions of high elevation or latitude with regular severe late frost events might remain inaccessible for L. polyphyllus, further spread across Europe seems probable as the predicted increase in drought events may favour this non-native legume over native species.