Nutrient addition does not increase the benefits of clonal integration in an invasive plant spreading from open patches into plant communities.
One benefit of clonal integration is that resource translocation between connected ramets enhances the growth of the ramets grown under stressful conditions, but whether such resource translocation reduces the performance of the ramets grown under favourable conditions has not produced consistent results. In this study, we tested the hypothesis that resource translocation to recipient ramets may reduce the performance of donor ramets when resources are limiting but not when resources are abundant. We grew Mikania micrantha stolon fragments (each consisting of two ramets, either connected or not connected) under spatially heterogeneous competition conditions such that the developmentally younger, distal ramets were grown in competition with a plant community and the developmentally older, proximal ramets were grown without competition. For half of the stolon fragments, slow-release fertiliser pellets were applied to both the distal and proximal ramets. Under both the low and increased soil nutrient conditions, the biomass, leaf number and stolon length of the distal ramets were higher, and those of the proximal ramets were lower when the stolon internode was intact than when it was severed. For the whole clone, the biomass, leaf number and stolon length did not differ between the two connection treatments. Connection did not change the biomass of the plant communities competing with distal ramets of M. micrantha. Although clonal integration may promote the invasion of M. micrantha into plant communities, resource translocation to recipient ramets of M. micrantha will induce a cost to the donor ramets, even when resources are relatively abundant.