Evol Ecol Res 14: 83-94 (2012)     Full PDF if your library subscribes.

Invasiveness in exotic plant species is linked to high seed survival in the soil

Megan L. Phillips and Brad R. Murray

School of the Environment, University of Technology Sydney, Broadway, New South Wales, Australia

Correspondence: M.L. Phillips, School of the Environment, University of Technology Sydney, PO Box 123, Broadway, NSW 2007, Australia.
e-mail: megan.phillips@uts.edu.au


Background: Exotic species often do no harm for many generations and then become invasive. The science of invasion ecology seeks to determine the nature or causes of this change. Among the possibilities is that soil-borne fungi play a significant role in reducing the potential for invasiveness in the introduced range.

Predictions: The seed survival of invasive species in the soil exceeds that of non-invasives. Seed survival, both in invasives and non-invasives, is higher in the presence of fungicide, but fungicide improves the seed survival of non-invasives more than that of invasives.

Methods: A common garden experiment under field conditions to compare seed survival in the soil between invasive and non-invasive exotic plant species. We contrasted seven congeneric pairs of invasive and non-invasive species. The species in each pair originated from the same donor continent, shared similar growth form, habitat occurrence, and residence times in Australia. The addition of fungicide was used as an experimental treatment.

Results: Seed survival was significantly higher in invasive species. The addition of fungicide improved seed survival. However, there was also a significant interaction: the fungicide treatment had a significantly stronger effect on the seed survival of non-invasive species. Seed mass differences between congeners did not provide a consistent, significant explanation of seed survival differences.

Conclusion: The seeds of invasive species are better equipped to survive in the soil than those of non-invasive species. Moreover, soil-borne fungi play a key role in the lower seed survival of non-invasive species.

Keywords: exotic plants, invasive species, naturalization to invasion, seed size, soil fungi.

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