, Volume 169, Issue 4, pp 1075-1081

Grouping plant species by shared native range, and not by native status, predicts response to an exotic herbivore

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Abstract

Differences among exotic species can be as large as differences between native and exotic species. Typically, however, only the distinction between native and exotic is made when predicting responses in a community. In this paper, I examine the response of plant species to experimental disturbance and exclusion of invasive European rabbits (Oryctolagus cuniculus) in a grassland community with exotic plants originating from five continents. I explore group responses based on native status, shared native range with rabbits, having a congener from the native range of rabbits, life-history (e.g., annual), and life-form (e.g., grass). Individual species responses to rabbits were idiosyncratic, but group responses were predicted by continent of origin, not native status. Native status did predict response to disturbance with almost uniform responses within groups. Exotic species, regardless of origin, were positively affected by disturbance. Native species, in contrast, were negatively affected by disturbance. These results suggest that grouping plant species by native status is valid for questions of disturbance, but when analyzing outcomes of interactions, factors other than native status, such as shared evolutionary history, should be considered.

Communicated by John Silander.