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Magnitude and timing of resource pulses interact to affect plant invasion

Citation

Tao, Zhibin et al. (2021), Magnitude and timing of resource pulses interact to affect plant invasion, Dryad, Dataset, https://doi.org/10.5061/dryad.xksn02vgf

Abstract

Human activities can cause resource fluctuations through reducing uptake by the resident vegetation (e.g., disturbance) or through changing external resource supply (e.g., fertilization). Resource fluctuations often occur as pulses which are low frequency, large magnitude and short duration, and now are recognized as an important driver of plant invasions. However, resource pulses often vary dramatically in a number of attributes, yet how these attributes mediate the impacts of resource pulses on plant invasions remains unclear. Erigeron canadensis is a serious invader of disturbed habitats and agricultural fields in China. Thus, it experiences nutrient pulses with different magnitudes and timings. Here, we grew E. canadensis and six co-occurring native plant species with three different magnitudes of nutrient enrichment (low, medium or high). For each magnitude, we added equivalent amounts of nutrients with a constant supply as a control or one of three pulses with different timings (early, middle or late stages). We found that pulse magnitude, timing and their interaction significantly affected E. canadensis growth (biomass production) and invasion (proportion of biomass in a pot). For each timing, E. candensis growth and invasion increased with nutrient magnitude. At low magnitude, middle and late pulses promoted E. canadensis growth and invasion. At medium magnitude, late pulses suppressed E. canadensis growth, but did not affect its invasion. At high magnitude, early and middle pulses strongly suppressed E. canadensis growth and invasion. In contrast, natives generally exhibited different responses to nutrient pulses. Our study shows that plant responses are not just dependent on the presence of a resource pulse but also on its attributes. In contrast to theory and many empirical studies, our results show that resource fluctuation does not always promote plant invasion. We highlight that the attributes of resource pulses are key to understanding the impact of resource fluctuations on plant invasion.