, Volume 12, Issue 7, pp 2001-2012
Date: 16 Oct 2009

Differences in the trait compositions of non-indigenous and native plants across Germany

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This paper explores the differences in the trait compositions of non-indigenous (neophytic) and native plant species for selected traits in Germany. Our set of functional traits addresses species’ reproductive biology, life history, morphology and ecophysiology. To take account of broad-scale heterogeneity across the country we compared the relative frequencies of neophytes and natives with particular trait attributes at the scale of grid cells (c. 130 km2 each). Subsequently, we compared the differences at the grid cell scale to the differences in the corresponding comparisons at the scale of the entire country. Finally, we explored how variation in the trait compositions of the non-indigenous species across the country relates to variation in the trait compositions of the natives. We found remarkable differences in the trait compositions of neophytes and natives at the grid cell scale. Neophytes were over-represented in insect- and self-pollinated species and in species with a later and longer flowering season. Furthermore, the proportions of species with mesomorphic or hygromorphic leaf anatomy, of annual herbs and of trees as well as of non-clonals and polyploids were significantly higher in neophytes than in natives. These differences at the grid cell scale could vary distinctly from the corresponding differences observed at the country scale. This result highlights the complexity of the invasion process and suggests an importance of spatial scale for the comparisons. Correlation analysis indicated, that for traits relating to plant morphology and ecophysiology, the relative frequencies of the non-indigenous species increased with those of the natives. This suggests that favourable environments for natives with particular attributes constitute an increased suitability for neophytes with these attributes as well. Our study provides a step forward towards an integrated understanding of traits in plant invasions across spatial scales and broad-scale heterogeneity and underlines the necessity to understand the role of functional traits in plant invasions with reference to spatial scale and in the context of the environment.