Journal Article

Positive diversity–invasibility relationship in species-rich semi-natural grassland at the neighbourhood scale

Michaela Zeiter and Andreas Stampfli

in Annals of Botany

Published on behalf of The Annals of Botany Company

Volume 110, issue 7, pages 1385-1393
Published in print November 2012 | ISSN: 0305-7364
Published online September 2012 | e-ISSN: 1095-8290 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/aob/mcs193
Positive diversity–invasibility relationship in species-rich semi-natural grassland at the neighbourhood scale

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  • Ecology and Conservation
  • Evolutionary Biology
  • Plant Sciences and Forestry

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Background and Aims

Attempts to answer the old question of whether high diversity causes high invasion resistance have resulted in an invasion paradox: while large-scale studies often find a positive relationship between diversity and invasibility, small-scale experimental studies often find a negative relationship. Many of the small-scale studies are conducted in artificial communities of even-aged plants. Species in natural communities, however, do not represent one simultaneous cohort and occur at various levels of spatial aggregation at different scales. This study used natural patterns of diversity to assess the relationship between diversity and invasibility within a uniformly managed, semi-natural community.

Methods

In species-rich grassland, one seed of each of ten species was added to each of 50 contiguous 16 cm2 quadrats within seven plots (8 × 100 cm). The emergence of these species was recorded in seven control plots, and establishment success was measured in relation to the species diversity of the resident vegetation at two spatial scales, quadrat (64 cm2) within plots (800 cm2) and between plots within the site (approx. 400 m2) over 46 months.

Key Results

Invader success was positively related to resident species diversity and richness over a range of 28–37 species per plot. This relationship emerged 7 months after seed addition and remained over time despite continuous mortality of invaders.

Conclusions

Biotic resistance to plant invasion may play only a sub-ordinate role in species-rich, semi-natural grassland. As possible alternative explanations for the positive diversity–invasibility relationship are not clear, it is recommended that future studies elaborate fine-scale environmental heterogeneity in resource supplies or potential resource flows from resident species to seedlings by means of soil biological networks established by arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi.

Keywords: Biotic resistance; environmental heterogeneity; forbs; graminoids; grassland; invasibility; neighbourhood scale; recruitment; seed addition; seedling establishment; species diversity; species richness

Journal Article.  6108 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Ecology and Conservation ; Evolutionary Biology ; Plant Sciences and Forestry

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