Leaf trait relationships of native and invasive plants: community- and global-scale comparisons


Author for correspondence:Michelle Leishman Tel: +61 29850 9180 Fax: +51 29850 8245 Email: michelle.leishman@mq.edu.au


  • • Leaf carbon capture strategies of native and exotic invasive plants were compared by examining leaf traits and their scaling relationships at community and global scales 
  • • Community-level leaf trait data were obtained for 55 vascular plant species from nutrient-enriched and undisturbed bushland in Sydney, Australia. Global-scale leaf trait data were compiled from the literature for 75 native and 90 exotic invasive coexisting species.
  • • At the community level, specific leaf area (SLA), foliar nitrogen and phosphorus (Nmass and Pmass) and N:P ratio were significantly higher for exotics at disturbed sites compared with natives at undisturbed sites, with natives at disturbed sites being intermediate. SLA, Nmass and Pmass were positively correlated, with significant shifts in group means along a common standardized major axis (SMA) slope. At the global scale, invasives had significantly higher Nmass, Pmass, assimilation rate (Amass and Aarea) and leaf area ratio (LAR) than natives. All traits showed positive correlations, with significant shifts in group means along a common slope. For a given SLA, invasives had higher Amass (7.7%) and Nmass (28%).
  • • Thus, exotic invasives do not have fundamentally different carbon capture strategies from natives but are positioned further along the leaf economics spectrum towards faster growth strategies. Species with leaf traits enabling rapid growth will be successful invaders when introduced to novel environments where resources are not limited.