Environmental stress alters native-nonnative relationships at the community scale
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The invasion of natural habitats by nonnative species is affected by both native biodiversity and environmental conditions; however few tests of facilitation between native community members and nonnative species have been conducted along disturbance and stress gradients. There is strong evidence for an increase in facilitation between native plant species with increasing levels of natural environmental stress, however it is unknown whether these same positive interactions occur between nonnative invaders and native communities. I investigated the effects of natural stress on community interactions between native heathland species and nonnative species with two field studies conducted at the landscape and community scale. At the landscape scale of investigation, nonnative species richness was positively related to native species richness. At the community level, nonnative invaders experienced facilitation with natives in the most stressful zones, whereas they experienced competition with native plants in the less stressful zones of the heathlands. Due to the observational nature of the landscape scale data, it is unclear whether nonnative diversity levels are responding positively to extrinsic factors or to native biodiversity. The experimental component of this research suggests that native community members may ameliorate stressful environmental conditions and facilitate invasion into high stress areas. I present a conceptual model which is a modification of the Shea and Chesson diversity-invasibility model and includes both facilitation as well as competition between the native community and nonnative invaders at the community level, summing to an overall positive relationship at the landscape scale.
KeywordsFacilitation Competition Heathlands Stress Diversity-invasibility
Financial support was provided by the National Parks Ecological Research Fellowship (A program funded by the National Park Foundation through a generous grant from the A. W. Mellon Foundation). I sincerely appreciate field assistance from E. Largay, K.A. Joseph, S.A. Clark, A. R. Collins, K. Ivy, R.G. Lohnes, and B. Ozimec. I thank C. Crain, C. J. Lortie, and anonymous reviewers for commenting on a previous version of this paper. D. Nickerson provided statistical advice. Verizon communications of Barnstable County provided the multi-colored telephone wires used for plant tags.
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