Timing of Favorable Conditions, Competition and Fertility Interact to Govern Recruitment of Invasive Chinese Tallow Tree in Stressful Environments
Gabler, Christopher A.
The rate of new exotic recruitment following removal of adult invaders (reinvasion pressure) influences restoration outcomes and costs but is highly variable and poorly understood. We hypothesize that broad variation in average reinvasion pressure of Triadica sebifera (Chinese tallow tree, a major invader) arises from differences among habitats in spatiotemporal availability of realized recruitment windows. These windows are periods of variable duration long enough to permit establishment given local environmental conditions. We tested this hypothesis via a greenhouse mesocosm experiment that quantified how the duration of favorable moisture conditions prior to flood or drought stress (window duration), competition and nutrient availability influenced Triadica success in high stress environments. Window duration influenced pre-stress seedling abundance and size, growth during stress and final abundance; it interacted with other factors to affect final biomass and germination during stress. Stress type and competition impacted final size and biomass, plus germination, mortality and changes in size during stress. Final abundance also depended on competition and the interaction of window duration, stress type and competition. Fertilization interacted with competition and stress to influence biomass and changes in height, respectively, but did not affect Triadica abundance. Overall, longer window durations promoted Triadica establishment, competition and drought (relative to flood) suppressed establishment, and fertilization had weak effects. Interactions among factors frequently produced different effects in specific contexts. Results support our ‘outgrow the stress’ hypothesis and show that temporal availability of abiotic windows and factors that influence growth rates govern Triadica recruitment in stressful environments. These findings suggest that native seed addition can effectively suppress superior competitors in stressful environments. We also describe environmental scenarios where specific management methods may be more or less effective. Our results enable better niche-based estimates of local reinvasion pressure, which can improve restoration efficacy and efficiency by informing site selection and optimal Management.