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The Interaction between Soil Nutrients and Leaf Loss during Early Establishment in Plant Invasion

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Nitrogen availability affects both plant growth and the preferences of herbivores. We hypothesized that an interaction between these two factors could affect the early establishment of native and exotic species differently, promoting invasion in natural systems. Taxonomically paired native and invasive species (Acer platanoides, Acer rubrum, Lonicera maackii, Diervilla lonicera, Celastrus orbiculata, Celastrus scandens, Elaeagnus umbellata, Ceanothus americanus, Ampelopsis brevipedunculata, and Vitis riparia) were grown in relatively high-resource (hardwood forests) and low-resource (pine barrens) communities on Long Island, New York, for a period of 3 months. Plants were grown in ambient and nitrogen-enhanced conditions in both communities. Nitrogen additions produced an average 12% initial increase in leaf number of all plants. By the end of the experiment, invasive species outperformed native species in nitrogen-enhanced plots in hardwood forests, where all plants experienced increased damage relative to control plots. Native species experienced higher overall amounts of damage in hardwood forests, losing, on average, 45% more leaves than exotic species, and only native species experienced a decline in growth rates (32% compared with controls). In contrast, in pine barrens, there were no differences in damage and no differences in performance between native and invasive plants. Our results suggest that unequal damage by natural enemies may play a role in determining community composition by shifting the competitive advantage to exotic species in nitrogen-enhanced environments.

Keywords: hardwood forests; invasive species; nitrogen; pine barrens; tolerance

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: 2007-12-01

More about this publication?
  • Forest Science is a peer-reviewed journal publishing fundamental and applied research that explores all aspects of natural and social sciences as they apply to the function and management of the forested ecosystems of the world. Topics include silviculture, forest management, biometrics, economics, entomology & pathology, fire & fuels management, forest ecology, genetics & tree improvement, geospatial technologies, harvesting & utilization, landscape ecology, operations research, forest policy, physiology, recreation, social sciences, soils & hydrology, and wildlife management.
    Forest Science is published bimonthly in February, April, June, August, October, and December.

    2015 Impact Factor: 1.702
    Ranking: 16 of 66 in forestry

    Average time from submission to first decision: 62.5 days*
    June 1, 2016 to Feb. 28, 2017

    Also published by SAF:
    Journal of Forestry
    Other SAF Publications
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