A trait-based approach across the native and invaded range to understand plant invasiveness and community impact.
Alien plant species invasiveness and impact on diversity (i.e. species richness and composition) can be driven by the altered competitive interactions experienced by the invader in its invaded range compared to its native range. Trait-based competition effects on invasiveness can be mediated through size-asymmetric competition, i.e. a trait suit of the invader that drives competitive dominance, and through 'niche differences', i.e. trait differentiation and thus minimized competition between invader and the invaded community. In terms of invasion impact, size-asymmetric competition is expected to result in competitive exclusion of co-occurring subordinate species, whereas 'niche differences' might result in competitive exclusion of the most functionally similar co-occurring species. Although observational work does not allow the full disentanglement of both trait-based effects, it does allow to verify the occurrence of expected theoretical trait patters. In this study, we explored the trait-based competition effects on invasiveness and diversity impact for Rosa rugosa in both its invaded range in Belgium and its native range in Japan, based on seven functional traits across 100 vegetation plots. Following the predictions for enhanced invasiveness, we found much lower functional overlap between R. rugosa and the co-occurring species in the invaded range compared to the native range. This likely also explains the absence of diversity impact in its native range. Despite the absence of changes in species richness in the invaded range, the invader did strongly impact species composition of invaded communities. This impact occurred through strong shade tolerance responses, suggesting size-asymmetric competition effects and cover loss of co-occurring dominant species, next to exclusion of co-occurring species most functionally similar to the invader; suggesting niche difference effects. In conclusion, this case-study illustrates how exploring functional trait patterns across a species native and invaded range can help in understanding how trait-based competition processes can affect invasiveness and community impact.