Similar biotic factors affect early establishment and abundance of an invasive plant species across spatial scales
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- Souza, L., Bunn, W.A., Weltzin, J.F. et al. Biol Invasions (2011) 13: 255. doi:10.1007/s10530-010-9805-9
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Research in community invasibiliy has focused on biotic and abiotic factors that influence the establishment of invasive species and whether such factors vary with spatial scale. Here, we investigate the role of both biotic and abiotic factors associated with the initial establishment of Lespedeza cuneata (L. cuneata) and its abundance at three spatial scales: neighborhoods (9-m2 plots), communities (50-m2 transect) and old fields (5,000–70,000 m2). We asked: (1) Do resource availability and community structure affect the establishment of L. cuneata?, and (2) Are resource availability and community structure associated with patterns of L. cuneata abundance from neighborhood scales to old-field scales? To investigate the first question, we manipulated soil nitrogen (N) availability at three levels in an existing old-field community and tracked emergence and persistence of L. cuneata seedlings, as well as total plant biomass of the community, availability of light, and soil moisture content. To address the second question, we performed surveys in which we estimated L. cuneata foliar cover at community scales (50-m2 belt transects) and old-field scales (total area of 28 ha), and assessed the same biotic and abiotic variables as in the field experiment. The experiment revealed that establishment and persistence by L. cuneata seedlings were 15× and 5× lower in N-added plots than in N-reduced plots. Total plant community biomass was 30% greater in N-added plots than in N-reduced plots. Conversely, light and soil moisture were 60 and 20% lower in N-added plots than in N-reduced plots. Surveys of old fields indicated that community biomass was positively associated with L. cuneata cover at old-field scales likely resulting from greater soil N input from nitrogen fixation in fields with greater L. cuneata cover. In sum, these results indicate that biotic factors associated with establishment of a Rank 1 invasive plant species at the community scale are also related to its distribution at the old-field scale, but the direction of such associations changed across scales.