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Properties of native plant communities do not determine exotic success during early forest succession

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Considerable research has been devoted to understanding how plant invasions are influenced by properties of the native community and to the traits of exotic species that contribute to successful invasion. Studies of invasibility are common in successionally stable grasslands, but rare in recently disturbed or seral forests. We used 16 yr of species richness and abundance data from 1 m2 plots in a clearcut and burned forest in the Cascade Range of western Oregon to address the following questions: 1) is invasion success correlated with properties of the native community? Are correlations stronger among pools of functionally similar taxa (i.e. exotic and native annuals)? Do these relationships change over successional time? 2) Does exotic abundance increase with removal of potentially dominant native species? 3) Do the population dynamics of exotic and native species differ, suggesting that exotics are more successful colonists? Exotics were primarily annual and biennial species. Regardless of the measure of success (richness, cover, biomass, or density) or successional stage, most correlations between exotics and natives were non-significant. Exotic and native annuals showed positive correlations during mid-succession, but these were attributed to shared associations with bare ground rather than to direct biotic interactions. At peak abundance, neither cover nor density of exotics differed between controls and plots from which native, mid-successional dominants were removed. Tests comparing nine measures of population performance (representing the pace, magnitude, and duration of population growth) revealed no significant differences between native and exotic species. In this early successional system, local richness and abundance of exotics are not explained by properties of the native community, by the presence of dominant native species, or by superior colonizing ability among exotics species. Instead natives and exotics exhibit individualistic patterns of increase and decline suggesting similar sets of life-history traits leading to similar successional roles.
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Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: June 1, 2009

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