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Impacts of alien invasive plants on soil nutrients are correlated with initial site conditions in NW Europe

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  • Biological Invasions
  • Homogenisation
  • Nutrient Cycling
  • Species Effects
  • Topsoil Mineral Nutrients
  • Life Sciences :: Environmental Sciences & Ecology [F08]
  • Sciences Du Vivant :: Sciences De L'Environnement & écologie [F08]
  • Biology
  • Chemistry
  • Ecology


Alien invasive plants are capable of modifying ecosystem function. However, it is difficult to make generalisations because impacts often appear to be species- and site-specific. In this study, we examined the impacts of seven highly invasive plant species in NW Europe (Fallopia japonica, Heracleum mantegazzianum, Impatiens glandulifera, Prunus serotina, Rosa rugosa, Senecio inaequidens, Solidago gigantea) on nutrient pools in the topsoil and the standing biomass. We tested if the impacts follow predictable patterns, across species and sites or, alternatively, if they are entirely idiosyncratic. To that end, we compared invaded and adjacent uninvaded plots in a total of 36 sites with widely divergent soil chemistry and vegetation composition. For all species, invaded plots had increased aboveground biomass and nutrient stocks in standing biomass compared to uninvaded vegetation. This suggests that enhanced nutrient uptake may be a key trait of highly invasive plant species. The magnitude and direction of the impact on topsoil chemical properties were strongly site-specific. A striking finding is that the direction of change in soil properties followed a predictable pattern. Thus, strong positive impacts (higher topsoil nutrient concentrations in invaded plots compared to uninvaded ones) were most often found in sites with initially low nutrient concentrations in the topsoil, while negative impacts were generally found under the opposite conditions. This pattern was significant for potassium, magnesium, phosphorus, manganese and nitrogen. The particular site-specific pattern in the impacts that we observed provides the first evidence that alien invasive species may contribute to a homogenisation of soil conditions in invaded landscapes.

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