An exotic invasive plant selects for increased competitive tolerance, but not competitive suppression, in a native grass

Rebecca A. Fletcher, Ragan M. Callaway, Daniel Z. Atwater

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Exotic invasive plants can exert strong selective pressure for increased competitive ability in native plants. There are two fundamental components of competitive ability: suppression and tolerance, and the current paradigm that these components have equal influences on a species’ overall competitive ability has been recently questioned. If these components do not have equal influences on overall ability, then selection on competitive tolerance and suppression may be disproportionate. We used naturally invaded communities to study the effects of selection caused by an invasive forb, Centaurea stoebe, on a native grass, Pseudoroegneria spicata. P. spicata plants were harvested from within dense C. stoebe patches and from nearby uninvaded areas, divided clonally into replicates, then transplanted into a common garden where they grew alone or competed with C. stoebe. We found that P. spicata plants collected from within C. stoebe patches were significantly more tolerant of competition with C. stoebe than P. spicata plants collected from uninvaded areas, but plants from inside invaded patches were not superior at suppressing C. stoebe. These results are consistent with the hypothesis that strong competitors may select for tolerance to competition more than for the ability to suppress neighbors. This has important implications for how native plant communities may respond to invasion over time, and how invasive and native species may ultimately coexist.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)499-505
Number of pages7
JournalOecologia
Volume181
Issue number2
DOIs
StatePublished - Jun 1 2016

Keywords

  • Competitive effect
  • Competitive response
  • Demolition derby
  • Selection
  • Species invasion

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