Invasive Species Compendium

Detailed coverage of invasive species threatening livelihoods and the environment worldwide

Abstract

Leaf trait differences between 97 pairs of invasive and native plants across China: effects of identities of both the invasive and native species.

Abstract

Many studies have attempted to test whether certain leaf traits are associated with invasive plants, resulting in discrepant conclusions that may be due to species-specificity. However, no effort has been made to test for effects of species identity on invasive-native comparisons. Here, we compared 20 leaf traits between 97 pairs of invasive and native plant species in seven disturbed sites along a southwest-to-northeast transect in China using phylogenetically controlled within-study meta-analyses. The invasive relative to the native species on average had significantly higher leaf nutrients concentrations, photosynthetic rates, photosynthetic nutrients- and energy-use efficiencies, leaf litter decomposition rates, and lower payback time and carbon-to-nitrogen ratios. However, these differences disappeared when comparing weakly invasive species with co-occurring natives and when comparing invasives with co-occurring widespread dominant natives. Furthermore, the magnitudes of the differences in some traits decreased or even reversed when a random subset of strongly to moderately invasive species was excluded from the species pool. Removing rare to common natives produced the same effect, while exclusion of weakly to moderately invasives and dominant to common natives enhanced the differences. Our study indicates that the results of invasive-native comparisons are species-specific, providing a possible explanation for discrepant results in previous studies, such that we may be unable to detect general patterns regarding traits promoting exotic plant invasions through multi-species comparisons.