Photosynthetic tolerance to non-resource stress influences competition importance and intensity in an invaded estuary

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Date: June 2018
From: Ecology(Vol. 99, Issue 6)
Publisher: Ecological Society of America
Document Type: Author abstract; Report
Length: 344 words

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Abstract :

In an attempt to clarify the role of environmental and biotic interactions on plant growth, there has been a long-running ecological debate over whether the intensity and importance of competition stabilizes, increases or decreases across environmental gradients. We conducted an experiment in a Chinese estuary to investigate the effects of a non-resource stress gradient, soil salinity (from 1.4 [per thousand] to 19.0 [per thousand] salinity), on the competitive interactions between native Phragmites australis and invasive Spartina allerniflora. We linked these effects to measurements of photosynthetic activities to further elucidate the underlying physiological mechanism behind the competitive interactions and the driver of invasion. The experiments revealed that while biomass of both species decreased in the presence of the other, competition did not alter photosynthetic activity of either species over time. P. australis exhibited high photosynthetic activity, including low chlorophyllase activity, high chlorophyll content, high stomatal conductance and high net photosynthetic rate, at low salinity. Under these conditions, P. australis experienced low competitive intensity, leading to high biomass production and competitive exclusion of S. alterniflora. The opposite was observed for S. allerniflora: while competitive intensity experienced by P. australis increased with increasing salinity, and photosynthetic activity, biomass, competitive dominance and the importance of competition for P. australis growth decreased, those of S. alterniflora were stable. These findings demonstrate that S. alterniflora invasion driven by competitive exclusion are likely to occur and expand in high salinity zones. The change in the nature of competition along a non-resource stress gradient differs between competitors likely due to differences in photosynthetic tolerance to salinity. The driver of growth of the less-tolerant species changes from competition to non-resource stress factors with increasing stress levels, whereas competition is constantly important for growth of the more-tolerant species. Incorporating metrics of both competition intensity and importance, as well as linking these competitive outcomes with physiological mechanisms, is crucial to understanding, predicting, and mediating the effects of invasive species in the future. Key words: biological invasions; chlorophyll; chlorophyllase; competition importance; competitive ability; competitive intensity: photosynthesis; Phragmites australis; physiological tolerance; soil salinity; Spartina alterniflora; stress.

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Gale Document Number: GALE|A553402673