Functional Segregation of Resource-Use Strategies of Native and Invasive Plants Across Mediterranean Biome Communities

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Functional segregation among species in a community depends on their mean trait values (i.e. functional distinctiveness), and the range of trait attributes exhibited by each species (i.e. functional diversity). Previous evidence suggests that invasive plants tend to display traits related to a more acquisitive resource-use strategy than natives. However, the contribution of intraspecific trait variation to functional diversity has received little attention in community ecology, and might provide interesting information about community processes. In this study, we used eight plant traits related to carbon and nutrient acquisition of coexisting dominant native and invasive plants in eight communities across the Mediterranean-climate biome to determine sources of functional segregation between native and invasive species. We found three major axes of functional variation, related to leaf economics, resource-use efficiency, and plant height. Invasive species across communities had leaf traits related to an acquisitive resource-use strategy in contrast to native species, whereas differences in the second and third axes were community dependent. Invasive species were more functionally diverse than native species across the dataset and in four out of the eight communities. Intraspecific variance accounted for 11%–27% of total trait variation and was on average greater in invasive species, and especially important in the axis related to resource use efficiency. These results, although dependent on the trait and community considered, offer interesting insights to the sources of functional trait diversity of native and invasive species within communities, indicating that intraspecific variation might not be equally distributed between native and invasive species.


This article was originally published in Biological Invasions, volume 23, in 2021. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10530-020-02368-5