Invasive legume affects species and functional composition of mountain meadow plant communities.
Plant invasions are among the key drivers of global biodiversity and ecosystem change. They often cause reductions in native species richness and overall biodiversity. Nitrogen-fixing plants are problematic as they affect soil nutrient availability and outcompete species of nutrient-poor sites. Here we assessed the impacts of the legume Lupinus polyphyllus on species and functional diversity of mountain meadow communities in the UNESCO Biosphere Reserve Rhön. We compared species diversity (richness, evenness and effective species number), functional diversity (functional richness, evenness, divergence and dispersion) and similarity of plots in three characteristic vegetation types (Nardus grassland, mesic and wet mountain hay meadows) between different lupine cover classes. We calculated community weighted means (CWMs) of single plant traits and plotted them against lupine cover classes. The invasion of L. polyphyllus homogenizes vegetation composition since the similarity among plots of the different vegetation types increased with increasing lupine cover. It significantly affected species diversity in terms of richness and effective species number and the functional divergence of the vegetation. The trait set of species occurring together with lupine was shifted towards more competitive trait values. We demonstrate strongly negative impacts of L. polyphyllus on different mountain meadow vegetation types since L. polyphyllus, fosters the growth of competitive species and leads to overall more productive plant communities.