Plant invasion alters the physico-chemical dynamics of soil system: insights from invasive Leucanthemum vulgare in the Indian Himalaya.
Understanding the impact of plant invasions on the terrestrial ecosystems, particularly below-ground soil system dynamics can be vital for successful management and restoration of invaded landscapes. Here, we report the impacts of a global plant invader, Leucanthemum vulgare Lam. (ox-eye daisy), on the key physico-chemical soil properties across four sites selected along an altitudinal gradient (1600-2550 m) in Kashmir Himalaya, India. At each site, two types of spatially separated but environmentally similar sampling plots: invaded (IN) and uninvaded (UN) were selected for soil sampling. The results revealed that invasion by L. vulgare had a significant impact on key soil properties in the IN plots. The soil pH, water content, organic carbon and total nitrogen were significantly higher in the IN plots as compared with the UN plots. In contrast, the electrical conductivity, phosphorous and micronutrients, viz. iron, copper, manganese and zinc, were significantly lower in the IN plots as compared with the UN plots. These changes in the soil system dynamics associated with L. vulgare invasion were consistent across all the sites. Also, among the sites, soil properties of low-altitude site (1600 m) were different from the rest of the sampling sites. Overall, the results of the present study indicate that L. vulgare, by altering key properties of the soil system, is likely to influence nutrient cycling processes and facilitates positive feedback for itself. Furthermore, the research insights from this study have wide management implications in the effective ecological restoration of the invaded landscapes.