Non-native and native shrubs have differing impacts on species diversity and composition of associated plant communities
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- Lanta, V., Hyvönen, T. & Norrdahl, K. Plant Ecol (2013) 214: 1517. doi:10.1007/s11258-013-0272-0
The spread of non-native plants has been depicted as a serious threat to biodiversity. However, it remains unclear whether the indigenousness of the invading plant plays a marked role for the ecological consequences of an invasion as few studies have compared the ecological impacts of non-native shrubs with structurally or functionally comparable native shrubs. We studied patches of introduced and native shrubs to assess whether there are general differences in plant species composition or biomass between patches formed by non-native versus native shrubs. The indigenousness of the shrub (non-native vs. native) did not explain the variation in soil nutrients, neither the production of shoot biomass or allocation of growth to different parts of the shoot. The amount of light reaching ground level did not differ between patches of a non-native and a native shrub. However, species richness and biomass of herbaceous plants were lower in patches of non-native than native shrubs and the amount of litter was higher below non-native than native shrubs. Our results suggest that the indigenousness of the patch-forming plant may be an important factor for the diversity and composition of associated herbaceous vegetation. Based on our results, resource availability (light and nutrients) is not a sufficient explanation for the negative effects of non-native shrubs on plant communities. Further research is needed to investigate whether alternative explanations, such as the novelty of the toxic compounds produced by non-native plants, can explain the differences we observed.