Annals of Botany

Linking invasive–native plant competition to foraging and nutrient conditions

The effects of the competition between invasive and native plants have rarely been linked with root foraging behaviour. Chen et al. performed a competition experiment with two invasive-native species pairs (Bidens pilosa vs. Vernonia cinerea and Mikania micrantha vs. Paederia scandens) under homogeneous and heterogeneous conditions.

Schematic representation of the experimental design.
Schematic representation of the experimental design. Pots were divided into four quadrants (1, 2, 3 and 4). Each species within a species pair was grown alone and in competition with the other member of the pair under homogeneous and heterogeneous nutrient conditions. ‘I’ indicates the position of the invasive plant and ‘N’ indicates the position of the native plant. Under heterogeneous conditions, quadrant 2 was nutrient rich, and quadrant 3 (as well as quadrants 1 and 4) was nutrient poor. Grey represents homogeneous soil; dark shading represents nutrient-rich soil; and white represents nutrient-poor soil. The total nutrient availability was similar between the treatments. In addition, Sr (represented by stars) was applied to both quadrants 2 and 3 under the heterogeneous condition and only to quadrant 2 under the homogeneous condition (details in the Materials and Methods).

The results indicate that soil nutrient heterogeneity has the potential to promote the invasion of these two exotic species due to their larger foraging scale, stronger competitive ability and greater root activity relative to their counterpart native species.

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