J Plant Ecol ›› 2013, Vol. 6 ›› Issue (4): 305-315.

• Research Articles •

### Exotic tree seedlings are much more competitive than natives but show underyielding when growing together

Heike Kawaletz1,*, Inga Mölder2, Stefan Zerbe3, Peter Annighöfer1, André Terwei3 and Christian Ammer1

1. 1 Department of Silviculture and Forest Ecology of the Temperate Zones, University of Göttingen, Büsgenweg 1, 37077 Göttingen, Germany; 2 Energieagentur Region Göttingen e.V., Berliner Str. 2, 37073 Göttingen, Germany; 3 Faculty of Science and Technology, Free University of Bozen-Bolzano, Piazza Università 5, 39100 Bolzano, Italy
• Received:2012-07-16 Accepted:2012-12-05 Published:2013-07-19
• Contact: Kawaletz, Heike

Abstract: Aims Invasive species continue to be a worldwide threat to ecosystems mainly as a cause for biodiversity loss. Forest ecosystems, for example, are subject to a change in species composition due to the invasion of exotic species. Specifying the attributes that cause the strong competitiveness of several exotic species may improve the ability to understand and effectively manage plant invasions in the future. In this study the following hypotheses were tested: (1) biomass production of below- and aboveground plant components of the exotic tree species is higher than that of the natives, resulting in a higher competitiveness of the exotics; (2) the exclusion of root competition has a positive effect on the biomass production of the inferior native species; and (3) mixtures of native and exotic species yield a higher biomass production than the respective monocultures.
Methods A pot experiment, containing about 2000 tree seedlings, was established. We investigated the biomass productivity and growth reactions of two native (Quercus robur L., Carpinus betulus L.) and two exotic tree species (Prunus serotina Ehrh., Robinia pseudoacacia L.) in different intra- and interspecific, competitive situations with and without the influence of root competition.
Important findings The biomass production of both exotic species was significantly higher and led to a strong competitive advantage, resulting in a biomass decrease of the less competitive native species. The high belowground biomass of both exotic species had a negative effect on the biomass production. The competitive pressure of exotic tree seedlings on the native ones was largely driven by root competition. Furthermore, mixtures of native and exotic tree species had a higher productivity than their growth in monocultures would have predicted. Competition was lower for exotic species in mixtures with the less productive native species compared to the competition in monocultures or in mixture with the other highly productive exotic species. Accordingly, both highly competitive exotic species produced less biomass in mixture with each other compared to monocultures. Despite the significantly higher biomass of P. serotina in all mixtures and in monoculture, R. pseudoacacia seemed to be the dominating species. Due to its strong root competition, R. pseudoacacia significantly reduced the biomass production of P. serotina .

Aims Invasive species continue to be a worldwide threat to ecosystems mainly as a cause for biodiversity loss. Forest ecosystems, for example, are subject to a change in species composition due to the invasion of exotic species. Specifying the attributes that cause the strong competitiveness of several exotic species may improve the ability to understand and effectively manage plant invasions in the future. In this study the following hypotheses were tested: (1) biomass production of below- and aboveground plant components of the exotic tree species is higher than that of the natives, resulting in a higher competitiveness of the exotics; (2) the exclusion of root competition has a positive effect on the biomass production of the inferior native species; and (3) mixtures of native and exotic species yield a higher biomass production than the respective monocultures.
Methods A pot experiment, containing about 2000 tree seedlings, was established. We investigated the biomass productivity and growth reactions of two native (Quercus robur L., Carpinus betulus L.) and two exotic tree species (Prunus serotina Ehrh., Robinia pseudoacacia L.) in different intra- and interspecific, competitive situations with and without the influence of root competition.
Important findings The biomass production of both exotic species was significantly higher and led to a strong competitive advantage, resulting in a biomass decrease of the less competitive native species. The high belowground biomass of both exotic species had a negative effect on the biomass production. The competitive pressure of exotic tree seedlings on the native ones was largely driven by root competition. Furthermore, mixtures of native and exotic tree species had a higher productivity than their growth in monocultures would have predicted. Competition was lower for exotic species in mixtures with the less productive native species compared to the competition in monocultures or in mixture with the other highly productive exotic species. Accordingly, both highly competitive exotic species produced less biomass in mixture with each other compared to monocultures. Despite the significantly higher biomass of P. serotina in all mixtures and in monoculture, R. pseudoacacia seemed to be the dominating species. Due to its strong root competition, R. pseudoacacia significantly reduced the biomass production of P. serotina .