Chinese Tallow Trees (Triadica sebifera) from the Invasive Range Outperform Those from the Native Range with an Active Soil Community or Phosphorus Fertilization
Two mechanisms that have been proposed to explain success of invasive plants are unusual biotic interactions, such as enemy release or enhanced mutualisms, and increased resource availability. However, while these mechanisms are usually considered separately, both may be involved in successful invasions. Biotic interactions may be positive or negative and may interact with nutritional resources in determining invasion success. In addition, the effects of different nutrients on invasions may vary. Finally, genetic variation in traits between populations located in introduced versus native ranges may be important for biotic interactions and/or resource use. Here, we investigated the roles of soil biota, resource availability, and plant genetic variation using seedlings of Triadica sebifera in an experiment in the native range (China). We manipulated nitrogen (control or 4 g/m2), phosphorus (control or 0.5 g/m2), soil biota (untreated or sterilized field soil), and plant origin (4 populations from the invasive range, 4 populations from the native range) in a full factorial experiment. Phosphorus addition increased root, stem, and leaf masses. Leaf mass and height growth depended on population origin and soil sterilization. Invasive populations had higher leaf mass and growth rates than native populations did in fresh soil but they had lower, comparable leaf mass and growth rates in sterilized soil. Invasive populations had higher growth rates with phosphorus addition but native ones did not. Soil sterilization decreased specific leaf area in both native and exotic populations. Negative effects of soil sterilization suggest that soil pathogens may not be as important as soil mutualists for T. sebifera performance. Moreover, interactive effects of sterilization and origin suggest that invasive T. sebifera may have evolved more beneficial relationships with the soil biota. Overall, seedlings from the invasive range outperformed those from the native range, however, an absence of soil biota or low phosphorus removed this advantage.