Physiological responses to short-term water and light stress in native and invasive plant species in southern California
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As climate variability increases in low-resource environments, the ability of native and invasive species to tolerate stress and respond to large, ephemeral resource pulses will strongly influence plant fitness and, consequently, competitive outcomes. We examined how native and invasive species occurring in arid coastal sage scrub communities in southern California responded to water and high-light stress. We also examined how plants responded to irrigation following short-term water stress. While species responded differently to water and light treatments, no general pattern emerged between native and invasive species. Photosynthetic function of Ricinus communis (invasive) and Salvia mellifera (native) was most robust to water stress and most responsive to irrigation following water stress. Leaf transpiration data suggested that Ricinus and Salvia maintained photosynthetic function by high water use efficiency rather than higher water status via large root biomass. Brassica nigra (invasive) and Encelia californica (native) were more resistant to photoinhibition in response to high-light stress than Ricinus, Salvia, Artemesiacalifornica (native) or Nicotiana glauca (invasive). Our data suggest that native and invasive species in these arid systems display a range of physiological responses to stress and that strategies for invasive species control or native ecosystem restoration based on plant responses to stress may require species-specific approaches.