Native and exotic invasive plants have fundamentally similar carbon capture strategies


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1. Leaf trait relationships of native and exotic invasive species from a range of habitats were compared to assess consistency across habitats and the role of disturbance.

2. One hundred and twenty-two native and exotic species were sampled in five habitats in eastern Australia. Specific leaf area, foliar nitrogen (Nmass), assimilation rate (Amass) and dark respiration (Rmass) were measured for each species. Plants were classified into four types: native undisturbed, native disturbed, exotic invasive undisturbed and exotic invasive disturbed.

3. All traits were positively correlated and slopes were homogeneous within habitats. Significant differences between plant types in slope elevation were found in only two of 18 cases. There were significant shifts in group means along a common slope between plant types within habitats. These shifts were associated with disturbed vs. undisturbed areas, with plant types from disturbed areas having higher trait values.

4.Synthesis. Exotic invasive and native species do not have fundamentally different carbon capture strategies. The carbon capture strategy of a species is strongly associated with disturbance, with species from disturbed sites having traits that confer capacity for fast growth. Thus, differences between exotic invasives and natives may reflect differences in the environmental conditions of the sites where they occur rather than differences between exotic invasives and natives per se.