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Reciprocal Effects of Litter from Exotic and Congeneric Native Plant Species via Soil Nutrients

By Annelein Meisner, Wietse de Boer, Johannes H. C. Cornelissen and Wim H. van der Putten


Invasive exotic plant species are often expected to benefit exclusively from legacy effects of their litter inputs on soil processes and nutrient availability. However, there are relatively few experimental tests determining how litter of exotic plants affects their own growth conditions compared to congeneric native plant species. Here, we test how the legacy of litter from three exotic plant species affects their own performance in comparison to their congeneric natives that co-occur in the invaded habitat. We also analyzed litter effects on soil processes. In all three comparisons, soil with litter from exotic plant species had the highest respiration rates. In two out of the three exotic-native species comparisons, soil with litter from exotic plant species had higher inorganic nitrogen concentrations than their native congener, which was likely due to higher initial litter quality of the exotics. When litter from an exotic plant species had a positive effect on itself, it also had a positive effect on its native congener. We conclude that exotic plant species develop a legacy effect in soil from the invaded range through their litter inputs. This litter legacy effect results in altered soil processes that can promote both the exotic plant species and their native congener

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