Soil resource heterogeneity competitively favors an invasive clonal plant over a native one.
Soil resource heterogeneity can affect plant growth and competitive ability. However, little is known about how soil resource heterogeneity affects competitive interactions between invasive and native plants. We conducted an experiment with an invasive clonal plant Alternanthera philoxeroides and a coexisting native one Alternanthera sessilis. The experiment was a randomized design with three factors, i.e. two species (A. philoxeroides and A. sessilis), two interspecific competition treatments (with and without) and five soil treatments (three homogeneous treatments and two small-scale heterogeneous treatments consisting of two patches of 10 cm × 15 cm and with different initial planting positions). Irrespective of competition, increasing soil resource availability increased the growth of A. philoxeroides. Increasing soil resource availability also increased the growth of A. sessilis without competition, but had no impact with competition. Irrespective of competition, soil resource heterogeneity increased biomass and ramet production of A. philoxeroides, and such effects were independent of initial planting position. For A. sessilis, however, soil resource heterogeneity only increased ramet production when the initial plant was grown in the low-resource patch without competition. Our results suggest that both high soil resource availability and small-scale soil resource heterogeneity can increase the relative competitive ability of the invasive plant A. philoxeroides when grown with its native congener A. sessilis. These findings may partly explain the invasion success of this clonal species in area with high soil resource availability and heterogeneity caused by e.g. nitrogen deposition, fertilization and disturbance.