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Functional traits predict resident plant response to Reynoutria japonica invasion in riparian and fallow communities in southern Poland

Article

Woch, MW; Kapusta, P; Stanek, M; Zubek, S; Stefanowicz, AM

NA

2021

AOB PLANTS

13

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Reynoutria japonica is one of the most harmful invasive species in the world, dramatically reducing the diversity of resident vegetation. To mitigate the impact of R. japonica on ecosystems and properly manage affected areas, understanding the mechanisms behind this plant's invasive success is imperative. This study aimed to comprehensively analyse plant communities invaded by R. japonica, taking into account species traits, habitat conditions and seasonal variability, and to determine the ecological profile of species that withstand the invader's pressure. The study was performed in fallow and riparian areas in southern Poland. Pairs of adjacent plots were established at 25 sites with no obvious signs of recent human disturbance. One plot contained R. japonica, and the other contained only resident vegetation. For each plot, botanical data were collected and soil physicochemical properties were determined. Twelve sites were surveyed four times, in two springs and two summers, to capture seasonal variability. The presence of R. japonica was strongly associated with reduced resident plant species diversity and/or abundance. In addition to the ability to quickly grow and form a dense canopy that shades the ground, the success of the invader likely resulted from the production of large amounts of hard-to-decompose litter. The indirect impact of R. japonica by controlling the availability of nutrients in the soil might also play a role. A few species coexisted with R. japonica. They can be classified into three groups: (i) spring ephemerals - geophytic forbs with a mixed life history strategy, (ii) lianas with a competitive strategy and (iii) hemicryptophytic forbs with a competitive strategy. Species from the first two groups likely avoided competition for light by temporal or spatial niche separation (they grew earlier than or above the invasive plant), whereas the high competitive abilities of species from the third group likely enabled them to survive in R. japonica patches.

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