, Volume 12, Issue 6, pp 1671-1683
Date: 09 Sep 2009

Similarities in the impact of three large invasive plant species on soil seed bank communities

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Invasions by alien plant species may substantially alter soil seed bank communities. While decreases in seed bank species richness, diversity, and composition as a consequence of plant invasions have been reported, the characteristics of seed banks associated with different invasive species have not been compared in any detail. Here, we describe changes in the characteristics of soil seed banks invaded by three large herbaceous invasive plants, Fallopia japonica, Gunnera tinctoria, and Heracleum mantegazzianum. The study was carried out at the spatial scales of site and plot, to reduce variability in seed bank data. Information on seed bank persistence was inferred from seed depth (0–5, 5–10, and 10–15 cm) and from time of sampling (May and October). Despite differences in the reproductive strategy and geographic distribution of these invaders, as well as in the standing vegetation and habitat types examined, the seed banks of invaded areas were similar in composition and in the relative abundance of different species. Invaded seed banks were dominated by seeds of a few agricultural weed species and/or rushes, suggesting that common features of the invaders, including a large standing biomass, extensive litter production, and the formation of mono-species stands may result in comparable selection pressures that favors traits that are largely genera or species-specific. These findings have a direct relevance for the development of strategies aimed at restoring previously-invaded sites while also improving our understanding of the long-term implications of plant invasions.