Responses to shading of naturalized and non-naturalized exotic woody species
2014, Feng, Yanhao, van Kleunen, Mark
Background and Aims
Recent studies have suggested that responses to shading gradients may play an important role in establishment success of exotic plants, but hitherto few studies have tested this. Therefore, a common-garden experiment was conducted using multiple Asian woody plant species that were introduced to Europe >100 years ago in order to test whether naturalized and non-naturalized species differ in their responses to shading. Specifically, a test was carried out to determine whether naturalized exotic woody species maintained better growth under shaded conditions, and whether they expressed greater (morphological and physiological) adaptive plasticity in response to shading, relative to non-naturalized species.
Nineteen naturalized and 19 non-naturalized exotic woody species were grown under five light levels ranging from 100 to 7 % of ambient light. For all plants, growth performance (i.e. biomass), morphological and CO2 assimilation characteristics were measured. For the CO2 assimilation characteristics, CO2 assimilation rate was measured at 1200 μmol m–2 s–1 (i.e. saturated light intensity, A1200), 50 μmol m–2 s–1 (i.e. low light intensity, A50) and 0 μmol m–2 s–1 (A0, i.e. dark respiration).
Overall, the naturalized and non-naturalized species did not differ greatly in biomass production and measured morphological and CO2 assimilation characteristics across the light gradient. However, it was found that naturalized species grew taller and reduced total leaf area more than non-naturalized species in response to shading. It was also found that naturalized species were more capable of maintaining a high CO2 assimilation rate at low light intensity (A50) when grown under shading.
The results indicate that there is no clear evidence that the naturalized species possess a superior response to shading over non-naturalized species, at least not at the early stage of their growth. However, the higher CO2 assimilation capacity of the naturalized species under low-light conditions might facilitate early growth and survival, and thereby ultimately favour their initial population establishment over the non-naturalized species.