Sudden changes in environmental conditions do not increase invasion risk in grassland
Faculty of Sciences. Biology
Acta oecologica. - Montreuil
, p. 8-15
University of Antwerp
After direct habitat transformation, biological invasions are considered to be the second most important threat to biodiversity. A better understanding of the factors affecting invasion success in new areas is crucial, and may provide insight into potential control actions. We hypothesized that invasion risk increases in habitats undergoing a sudden change in the disturbance regime or environmental conditions. For testing this assumption we initiated a seed sowing experiment while introducing two novel treatments, mowing twice and fertilizer application, in two grassland sites (one dryer and one mesic) in Romania. The seeds of two invasive species, Solidago canadensis and Rudbeckia laciniata, and two resident natives of similar seed sizes, life-forms and strategies were sowed in treated and control plots, and seed germination, seedling establishment and growth were followed during four months. Contrary to our expectations, there was no difference in the treatment effects on seed germination and seedling establishment between species, while there was on seedling vigour of the larger seeded species in the dryer grassland site, where the native had a higher performance especially in increased nutrient conditions. Indifferently from applied treatments, invasive species had greater cumulative germination in the mesic site, while natives were far more successful in seedling establishment in the drier site. At the same time, seed size was found to be a very important factor explaining germination and establishment success, with large seeded species outperforming small seeded species in any circumstances. Our results call the attention upon management interventions in mesic, productive grassland sites opening colonization windows for the recruitment of those invasive species of which ecological requirements correspond to local environmental conditions.