, Volume 158, Issue 4, pp 591–602

Environmental constraints on the invasion of Triadica sebifera in the eastern United States: an experimental field assessment

Physiological Ecology - Original Paper

DOI: 10.1007/s00442-008-1187-7

Cite this article as:
Pattison, R.R. & Mack, R.N. Oecologia (2009) 158: 591. doi:10.1007/s00442-008-1187-7


Identifying the environmental constraints that affect the distribution of an invasive species is fundamental to its effective control. Triadica sebifera (Chinese tallow tree) has invaded the southeastern United States, but its potential for further range and habitat extension has been unresolved. We explored experimentally environmental factors in macro- and microhabitats that affect its persistence at five widely separated sites along the Atlantic seaboard of the United States and at two sites inland; three sites occur well beyond the tree’s current range. At each site, seeds and young vegetative plants (0.5–0.65 m tall) of T. sebifera were placed in four microhabitats (closed-canopy upland, closed-canopy lowland, open-canopy upland, and open-canopy lowland). Plant growth, leaf CO2 assimilation rates, leaf N concentrations and δ13C ratios, and stem water potential were measured for two growing seasons. Percent seed germination was consistently higher in open-canopy microhabitats and lowest at northern and inland sites. T. sebifera grew in all open-canopy microhabitats, even 300–500 km beyond its current distribution. Plant growth in closed-canopy habitats was lower, attributable to lower carbon gain per unit leaf area in shaded compared with open-canopy environments, especially at northern and inland sites. Neither competition, other than canopy shade, nor grazing was a key constraint on distribution at any scale. Our results demonstrate that T. sebifera is dispersal limited at landscape scales but limited locally by dispersal and overstory shade; it has yet to occupy the full extent of its new range in North America. Quantifying environmental factors both within and well beyond a species’ current range can effectively highlight the limits on its distribution.


Chinese tallow treeCO2 assimilation ratesSpecies distributionField trialsRange limit

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2008

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.School of Biological SciencesWashington State UniversityPullmanUSA
  2. 2.Environment and Natural Resources InstituteUniversity of AlaskaAnchorageUSA