Get access

Plant Functional Group Diversity as a Mechanism for Invasion Resistance


Address correspondence to M. L. Pokorny, email


A commonly cited mechanism for invasion resistance is more complete resource use by diverse plant assemblages with maximum niche complementarity. We investigated the invasion resistance of several plant functional groups against the nonindigenous forb Spotted knapweed (Centaurea maculosa). The study consisted of a factorial combination of seven functional group removals (groups singularly or in combination) and two C. maculosa treatments (addition vs. no addition) applied in a randomized complete block design replicated four times at each of two sites. We quantified aboveground plant material nutrient concentration and uptake (concentration × biomass) by indigenous functional groups: grasses, shallow-rooted forbs, deep-rooted forbs, spikemoss, and the nonindigenous invader C. maculosa. In 2001, C. maculosa density depended upon which functional groups were removed. The highest C. maculosa densities occurred where all vegetation or all forbs were removed. Centaurea maculosa densities were the lowest in plots where nothing, shallow-rooted forbs, deep-rooted forbs, grasses, or spikemoss were removed. Functional group biomass was also collected and analyzed for nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium, and sulphur. Based on covariate analyses, postremoval indigenous plot biomass did not relate to invasion by C. maculosa. Analysis of variance indicated that C. maculosa tissue nutrient percentage and net nutrient uptake were most similar to indigenous forb functional groups. Our study suggests that establishing and maintaining a diversity of plant functional groups within the plant community enhances resistance to invasion. Indigenous plants of functionally similar groups as an invader may be particularly important in invasion resistance.