Invasive species are expected to cluster on the “high-return” end of the leaf economic spectrum, displaying leaf traits consistent with higher carbon assimilation relative to native species. Intra-leaf nitrogen (N) allocation should support these physiological differences; however, N biochemistry has not been examined in more than a few invasive species. We measured 34 leaf traits including seven leaf N pools for five native and five invasive species from Hawaii under low irradiance to mimic the forest understory environment. We found several trait differences between native and invasive species. In particular, invasive species showed preferential N allocation to metabolism (amino acids) rather than photosynthetic light reactions (membrane-bound protein) by comparison with native species. The soluble protein concentration did not vary between groups. Under these low irradiance conditions, native species had higher light-saturated photosynthetic rates, possibly as a consequence of a greater investment in membrane-bound protein. Invasive species may succeed by employing a wide range of N allocation mechanisms, including higher amino acid production for fast growth under high irradiance or storage of N in leaves as soluble protein or amino acids.
Funk JL, Glenwinkel LA, Sack L (2013) Differential Allocation to Photosynthetic and Non-Photosynthetic Nitrogen Fractions among Native and Invasive Species. PLoS ONE 8(5): e64502. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0064502
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