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Rare, common, alien and native species follow different rules in an understory plant community.

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posted on 2022-05-12, 00:54 authored by Sarah Reeve, David DeaneDavid Deane, Chris McGrannachan, Gillis Horner, Cang Hui, Melodie McGeochMelodie McGeoch
Biological invasions are a leading threat to biodiversity globally. Increasingly, ecosystems experience multiple introductions, which can have significant effects on patterns of diversity. The way these communities assemble will depend partly on whether rare and common alien species respond to environmental predictors in the same manner as rare and common native species, but this is not well understood. To examine this question across four national parks in south-eastern Australia, we sampled the understory plant community of eucalypt-dominated dry forest subject to multiple plant introductions. The drivers of diversity and turnover in alien and native species of contrasting frequency of occurrence (low, intermediate, and high) were each tested individually. We found alien species diversity and turnover were both strongly associated with abiotic conditions (e.g., soil pH), while distance had little influence because of the greater extent of occurrence and more homogeneous composition of common aliens. In contrast, native species diversity was not associated with abiotic conditions and their turnover was as strongly influenced by distance as by abiotic conditions. In both alien and native species, however, the most important predictors of turnover changed with frequency of occurrence. Although local coexistence appears to be facilitated by life history trade-offs, species richness of aliens and natives was negatively correlated and native species might face greater competition in areas with more neutral soils (e.g., pH > ~5.5) where alien richness and relative frequency were both highest. We conclude that diversity and turnover in the generally more widespread alien species are mainly driven by species sorting along an environmental gradient associated with pH and nutrient availability, whereas turnover of native species is driven by more neutral processes associated with dispersal limitation. We show alien and native plant species respond to different environmental factors, as do rare and common species within each component.


Australian Government Research Training Program; Australian Research Council, Grant/Award Number: DP200101680; Parks Victoria, Grant/Award Number: RPP1314P13


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Ecology and Evolution





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© 2022 The Authors. Ecology and Evolution published by John Wiley & Sons Ltd. This is an open access article under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits use, distribution and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.