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The idea that dominant invasive plant species outperform neighboring native species through higher rates of carbon assimilation and growth is supported by several analyses of global datasets. However, theory suggests that native and invasive species occurring in low-resource environments will be functionally similar, as environmental factors restrict the range of observed physiological and morphological trait values. We measured resource-use traits in native and invasive plant species across eight diverse vegetation communities distributed throughout the five Mediterranean-climate regions, which are drought-prone and increasingly threatened by human activities including the introduction of exotic species. Traits differed strongly across the five regions. In regions with functional differences between native and invasive species groups, invasive species displayed traits consistent with high resource acquisition; however, these patterns were largely attributable to differences in life form. We found that species invading Mediterranean-climate regions were more likely to be annual than perennial - three of the five regions were dominated by native woody species and invasive annuals. These results suggest that trait differences between native and invasive species are context dependent and will vary across vegetation communities. Native and invasive species within annual and perennial groups had similar patterns of carbon assimilation and resource-use, which contradicts the widespread idea that invasive species optimize resource acquisition rather than resource conservation.


This article was originally published in Ecology, volume 97, issue 1, in 2015 following peer review. It will be replaced by the definitive publisher-authenticated version once it is available at DOI: 10.1890/15-0974.1.


Ecological Society of America



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