Biological Invasions

, Volume 20, Issue 4, pp 861–875 | Cite as

Low resource availability limits weed invasion of tropical savannas

  • Harley R. Taylor
  • Ian J. Radford
  • Charles Price
  • Pauline Grierson
Original Paper
  • 84 Downloads

Abstract

The savanna biome is one of the least invaded among global biomes, although the mechanisms underpinning its resistance to alien species relative to other biomes is not well understood. Invaders generally are at the resource acquisitive end of functional global plant trait variation and in low-resource savanna environments we might expect that successful invaders will only outperform native species under resource rich or highly disturbed conditions. However, invaders may also directly exploit resource stressed environments using resource conservative traits in some situations. It’s also possible that successful invaders and native species largely overlap in their trait profiles indicating site specific environmental factors are responsible for invader success in particular contexts rather than a general trait and functional divergence between invaders and native species. To address these various hypotheses, we compared a suite of morphological and physiological traits in graminoid and herbaceous native and co-occurring invasive plant species across a range of habitats in savannas of the Kimberley region of northern Australia. Invader grass species had traits associated with resource acquisition and fast growth rates, such as high SLA and leaf nutrient contents. In contrast, dominant native perennial grasses had traits characteristic of resource conservation and slow growth in resource stressed conditions. Trait profiles among invasive forbs and legumes exhibited stress tolerant traits relative to their native counterparts. Invaders also displayed strong divergence in reproductive traits, suggesting diverse responses to disturbance not indicated by leaf economic traits alone. These results suggest that savannas may be resistant to invaders with resource acquisitive traits due to their strong resource limitation.

Keywords

Plant functional traits Plant strategies Plant invaders Disturbance Universal leaf trait economic spectrum Plant resources 

Notes

Acknowledgements

This project was funded by the Western Australian Department of Parks and Wildlife. Sara Lock, Kate Bowler, Elizabeth Trevenen, Gerald Page, and Douglas Ford at The University of Western Australia assisted with laboratory work. We thank King Leopold National Park ranger, Rod O’Donnell, for his hospitality and knowledge in the west Kimberley, Scott Stephens for assistance with fieldwork and Matthew Barrett for invaluable help in identifying Kimberley plants. Thanks to Professor Bob Nowak and Dr Lora Perkins for providing the initial inspiration for this study and to Jennifer Funk and an anonymous reviewer for very helpful comments on an earlier draft of this manuscript.

Supplementary material

10530_2017_1578_MOESM1_ESM.docx (19 kb)
Supplementary material 1 (DOCX 18 kb)

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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing AG 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.School of Plant BiologyUniversity of Western AustraliaCrawleyAustralia
  2. 2.Department of Parks and WildlifeKununurraAustralia

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