, Volume 8, Issue 2, pp 355-363

Species-Rich Scandinavian Grasslands are Inherently Open to Invasion

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Abstract

Invasion of native habitats by alien or generalist species is recognized worldwide as one of the major causes behind species decline and extinction. One mechanism determining community invasibility, i.e. the susceptibility of a community to invasion, which has been supported by recent experimental studies, is species richness and functional diversity acting as barriers to invasion. We used Scandinavian semi-natural grasslands, exceptionally species-rich at small spatial scales, to examine this mechanism, using three grassland generalists and one alien species as experimental invaders. Removal of two putative functional groups, legumes and dominant non-legume forbs, had no effect on invasibility except a marginally insignificant effect of non-legume forb removal. The amount of removed biomass and original plot species richness had no effect on invasibility. Actually, invasibility was high already in the unmanipulated community, leading us to further examine the relationship between invasion and propagule pressure, i.e. the inflow of seeds into the community. Results from an additional experiment suggested that these species-rich grasslands are effectively open to invasion and that diversity may be immigration driven. Thus, species richness is no barrier to invasion. The high species diversity is probably in itself a result of the community being highly invasible, and species have accumulated at small scales during centuries of grassland management.