Reduced risk for positive soil-feedback on seedling regeneration by invasive trees on a very nutrient-poor soil in Seychelles

Kueffer, Christoph

In: Biological Invasions, 2010, vol. 12, no. 1, p. 97-102

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    Invasive plants sometimes alter habitat conditions so as to promote further invasion, either by the same or by other non-native species. Such positive feedbacks often occur because the non-native species increases soil fertility, thereby favouring recruitment of non-native seedlings. This has been demonstrated in nitrogen-poor habitats invaded by nitrogen-fixing species, but it is unclear whether similar processes operate in habitats limited by phosphorus and other nutrients. I compared the growth of seedlings of Cinnamomum verum, an abundant invasive tree on phosphorus-poor soils in the Seychelles, in soils taken from beneath different tree species. I expected that soil phosphorus availability would be higher beneath stands of C. verum than beneath stands of either the native Northea hornei or the non-native nitrogen-fixing species, Falcataria moluccana. I therefore predicted that C. verum seedlings would grow faster in soil taken from beneath C. verum trees than in soil taken from beneath either of the other two species. To test this hypothesis, I performed a bioassay experiment with seedlings of C. verum grown in soils from stands of C. verum, F. moluccana and N. hornei. Different nutrient treatments (control, plus phosphorus (P), plus nitrogen (N), plus N and P, and plus complete fertilizer) were applied to investigate how nutrient availabilities modulate the effects of the trees. In the control treatment without added nutrients, there was a weak tendency for seedlings to perform better in the soils from beneath invasive than native trees. However, seedling growth in soils from beneath invasive species was markedly higher following the addition of phosphorus in the case of the F. moluccana soil, and complete fertilizer in the case of the C. verum soil. These results indicate that on very nutrient-poor soils, a low supply of nutrients other than N may reduce the risk of a soil-feedback by invasive trees on seedling regeneration