DIVERSITY–INVASIBILITY ACROSS AN EXPERIMENTAL DISTURBANCE GRADIENT IN APPALACHIAN FORESTS

Authors


  • Corresponding Editor: T. J. Stohlgren.

Abstract

Research examining the relationship between community diversity and invasions by nonnative species has raised new questions about the theory and management of biological invasions. Ecological theory predicts, and small-scale experiments confirm, lower levels of nonnative species invasion into species-rich compared to species-poor communities, but observational studies across a wider range of scales often report positive relationships between native and nonnative species richness. This paradox has been attributed to the scale dependency of diversity–invasibility relationships and to differences between experimental and observational studies. Disturbance is widely recognized as an important factor determining invasibility of communities, but few studies have investigated the relative and interactive roles of diversity and disturbance on nonnative species invasion. Here, we report how the relationship between native and nonnative plant species richness responded to an experimentally applied disturbance gradient (from no disturbance up to clearcut) in oak-dominated forests. We consider whether results are consistent with various explanations of diversity–invasibility relationships including biotic resistance, resource availability, and the potential effects of scale (1 m2 to 2 ha). We found no correlation between native and nonnative species richness before disturbance except at the largest spatial scale, but a positive relationship after disturbance across scales and levels of disturbance. Post-disturbance richness of both native and nonnative species was positively correlated with disturbance intensity and with variability of residual basal area of trees. These results suggest that more nonnative plants may invade species-rich communities compared to species-poor communities following disturbance.

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