Biological Invasions (2013) 15, 355-370

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Marian M. Chau, Lawrence R. Walker and Klaus Mehltreter (2013)
An invasive tree fern alters soil and plant nutrient dynamics in Hawaii
Biological Invasions 15 (2), 355-370
Abstract: Invasive species that alter ecosystems are often successful competitors due to their effects on nutrient cycling. Sphaeropteris cooperi (Cyatheaceae; Australian tree fern) has been invading intact Hawaiian rainforests for decades and displacing the dominant native tree fern Cibotium glaucum (Cibotiaceae). S. cooperi produces more leaves that grow faster, contain more N and P, and decompose faster than C. glaucum leaves. Our experiment tested the effects of additions of leaf litter from native and non-native tree ferns on the growth and nutrient content of four native angiosperm species in forest (N-rich) and landslide (P-rich) soils. Both litter treatments inhibited growth initially in all species, but subsequent responses were species-specific. Compared to control treatments, the increase in biomass was highest in the fast-growing Carex wahuensis and Hibiscus arnottianus with S. cooperi litter in landslide soil. Leaf N in C. wahuensis was higher with S. cooperi litter and in forest soil, as expected, but other leaf nutrient responses showed some evidence of nutrient immobilization from litter addition. Several growth measures were higher with S. cooperi than C. glaucum litter and in forest than landslide soil, suggesting that N availability is the strongest driver of growth. Our results show that S. cooperi can alter nutrient cycling in Hawaiian plants, sometimes with positive effects on growth. However, under natural conditions, native plants must compete for these additional nutrients with S. cooperi and other invasive species. This study contributes to invasion biology as the first to examine the impact of leaf litter of an invasive fern on native species.
(The abstract is excluded from the Creative Commons licence and has been copied with permission by the publisher.)
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Research topic(s) for pests/diseases/weeds:

Pest and/or beneficial records:

Beneficial Pest/Disease/Weed Crop/Product Country Quarant.
Cyathea cooperi (weed) U.S.A. (Hawaii)