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Data from: Comparative impacts of aboveground and belowground enemies on an invasive thistle

Cite this dataset

Nunes, Krystal A.; Kotanen, Peter M. (2018). Data from: Comparative impacts of aboveground and belowground enemies on an invasive thistle [Dataset]. Dryad.


1. Most research examining how herbivores and pathogens affect performance of invasive plants focuses on aboveground interactions. Although important, the role of belowground communities remains poorly understood, and the relative impact of aboveground and belowground interactions is still debated. As well, most studies of belowground interactions have been carried out in controlled environments, so little is known about the role of these interactions under natural conditions or how these relationships may change across a plant’s range. 2. Using the invasive plant Cirsium arvense, we performed a reciprocal transplant experiment to test the relative impacts of above- and belowground interactions at three sites across a 509 km latitudinal gradient in its invaded range in Ontario, Canada. At each site, C. arvense seedlings were protected with above- and/or belowground exclosures in a factorial design. 3. Plant performance (biomass, height, stem thickness, number of leaves, length of longest leaf, maximum rhizome length) was greatest when both above- and belowground exclosures were applied and lowest when no exclosures were applied. When only one type of exclosure was applied, biomass generally improved more with belowground exclosures than with aboveground exclosures. 4. Synthesis: Despite site-to-site differences in foliar damage, root damage, and mesofaunal populations, belowground interactions generally had a greater negative impact on performance than aboveground herbivory alone. These results stress the importance of including both aboveground enemy interactions and plant-soil interactions in studies of plant community dynamics and invader performance.

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