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Fluctuations in resource availability shape the competitive balance among non-native plant species

Citation

Tao, Zhibin et al. (2022), Fluctuations in resource availability shape the competitive balance among non-native plant species, Dryad, Dataset, https://doi.org/10.5061/dryad.63xsj3v5z

Abstract

Fluctuating resource availability plays a critical role in determining non-native plant invasions by mediating the competitive balance between non-native and native species. However, the impact of fluctuating resource availability on interactions among non-native species remains largely unknown. This represents a barrier to understanding invasion mechanisms, particularly in habitats that harbor multiple non-native species with different responses to fluctuating resource availability. To examine the responses of non-native plant species to nutrient fluctuations, we compared the growth of each of 12 non-native species found to be common in local natural areas to nutrients supplied at a constant rate or supplied as a single large pulse in a pot experiment. We found that seven species produced more biomass with pulsed nutrients compared to constant nutrients (hereafter ‘benefitting species’), while the other five species did not differ between nutrient enrichment treatments (hereafter ‘non-benefitting species’). To investigate how nutrient fluctuations influence the interactions among non-native plant species, we established experimental non-native communities in the field with two benefitting and two non-benefitting non-native species. Compared with constant nutrient supply, the single large pulse of nutrients did not influence community biomass, but strongly increased the biomass and cover of the benefitting species and decreased those of the non-benefitting species. Furthermore, the benefitting species had higher leaf N content and greater plant height when nutrients were supplied as a single large pulse than at a constant rate, whereas the non-benefitting species showed no differences in leaf N content and were shorter when nutrients were supplied as a single large pulse than at a constant rate. Our results add to the growing evidence that the individual responses of non-native species to nutrient fluctuation are species-specific. More importantly, benefitting species were favored by nutrients coming in a pulse, while non-benefitting ones were favored by nutrients coming constantly when they grew together. This suggests that nutrient fluctuations can mediate the competitive balance among non-native plants and may thus determine their invasion success in a community harbouring multiple non-native plant species.

Funding

National Natural Science Foundation of China, Award: 31822007

National Natural Science Foundation of China, Award: 32071660

National Natural Science Foundation of China, Award: 32001239