Coordination of nitrogen uptake and assimilation favours the growth and competitiveness of moso bamboo over native tree species in high-NH4+ environments.
Phenotypic plasticity and competitive strength are major mechanisms determining the success of invasive species and are influenced by abiotic factors . A rise in the ratio of ammonium (NH4+) to nitrate (NO3-) in soils is frequently associated with the invasion of bamboo into broad-leaved evergreen forests . However, the influence of soil nitrogen (N) chemistry on plant growth and interspecific competition in the context of invasion remains insufficiently studied. In the present work, differences in plasticity and interspecific competition between native tree species in broad-leaved evergreen forests and invasive bamboo in response to different N forms were investigated using seedlings grown in a controlled environment. We show that moso bamboo responded positively and strongly to increased soil NH4+/NO3- ratios, while the native tree species Sapium sebiferum, Camellia oleifera, and Machilus pauhoi responded negatively and exhibited limited plasticity. Native tree species growth was significantly inhibited in the presence of moso bamboo under high-NH4+ conditions, whereas native tree species were less affected by interspecific competition when NO3- was supplied as the sole N source. By contrast, moso bamboo growth was significantly inhibited, followed by seedling death, in both monoculture and in mixed culture with prolonged NO3- treatment. All species tested exhibited significantly higher rates of 15NH4+ than 15NO3- uptake, but the Michaelis constant (Km) for 15NH4+ uptake was lower in moso bamboo, indicating higher substrate affinity. Nitrate reductase (NR) and nitrite reductase (NiR) activities showed no inducible effects in moso bamboo compared to the induction response seen in the native tree species in response to NO3-. Activities of glutamine synthetase (GS), glutamate synthase (GOGAT), and glutamate dehydrogenase (GDH) significantly increased with NH4+ provision in roots of moso bamboo, contrasted by a less plastic response in the native tree species. Enhanced ammonification and reduced nitrification in soils is typically observed during bamboo invasion and appears to create a positive soil-plant feedback loop that, due to highly flexible and opportunistic NH4+-acquisition pathways, favours bamboo fitness and invasion into native forests when NH4+ is the dominant N form.