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Complex interactions between spatial pattern of resident species and invasiveness of newly arriving species affect invasibility


Understanding the factors that affect establishment success of new species in established communities requires the study of both the ability of new species to establish and community resistance. Spatial pattern of species within a community can affect plant performance by changing the outcome of inter-specific competition, and consequently community invasibility. We studied the effects of spatial pattern of resident plant communities on fitness of genotypes from the native and introduced ranges of two worldwide invasive species, Centaurea stoebe and Senecio inaequidens, during their establishment stage. We experimentally established artificial plant mixtures with 4 or 8 resident species in intra-specifically aggregated or random spatial patterns, and added seedlings of genotypes from the native and introduced ranges of the two target species. Early growth of both S. inaequidens and C. stoebe was higher in aggregated than randomly assembled mixtures. However, a species-specific interaction between invasiveness and invasibility highlighted more complex patterns. Genotypes from native and introduced ranges of S. inaequidens showed the same responses to spatial pattern. By contrast, genotypes from the introduced range of C. stoebe did not respond to spatial pattern whereas native ones did. Based on phenotypic plasticity, we argue that the two target species adopted different strategies to deal with the spatial pattern of the resident plant community. We show that effects of spatial pattern of the resident community on the fitness of establishing species may depend on the diversity of the recipient community. Our results highlight the need to consider the interaction between invasiveness and invasibility in order to increase our understanding of invasion success.

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This project was funded by the National Centre of Competence in Research (NCCR) Plant Survival, a research program of the Swiss National Science Foundation. We thank Richard Bardgett for useful comments in editing and Pilar Gomis Bataller and Elena Rossel for technical assistance. We are grateful to Olivier Broennimann, Signe Normand and Urs Treier for collecting seeds of Centaurea stoebe, and to Daniel Prati for supplying seeds of Senecio inaequidens. This experiment complied with the Swiss regulation for invasive plant experimentations, as stated by the Federal Office for the Environment (FOEN).

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Correspondence to Aurélie Thébault.

Additional information

Communicated by Bryan Foster.

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Thébault, A., Stoll, P. & Buttler, A. Complex interactions between spatial pattern of resident species and invasiveness of newly arriving species affect invasibility. Oecologia 170, 1133–1142 (2012).

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  • Establishment success
  • Invasive species
  • Genotype
  • Phenotypic plasticity
  • Spatial aggregation