Robert Warren, Phil Pinzone, Daniel L. Potts, and Gary Pettibone
Non-native plants often dominate novel habitats where they did not co-evolve with the local species. The novel weapons hypothesis suggests that non-native plants bring competitive traits against which native species have not adapted defenses. Novel weapons may directly affect plant competitors by inhibiting germination or growth, or indirectly by attacking competitor plant mutualists (degraded mutualisms hypothesis). Japanese knotweed (Fallopia japonica) and European buckthorn (Rhamnus cathartica) are widespread plant invaders that produce potent secondary compounds that negatively impact plant competitors. We tested whether their impacts were consistent with a direct effect on the tree seedlings (novel weapons) or an indirect attack via degradation of seedling mutualists (degraded mutualism). We compared recruitment and performance using three Ulmus congeners and three Betula congeners treated with allelopathic root macerations from allopatric and sympatric ranges. Moreover, given that the allelopathic species would be less likely to degrade their own fungal symbiont types, we used arbuscular mycorrhizal (AMF) and ectomycorrhizal (ECM) tree species to investigate the effects of F. japonica (no mycorrhizal association) and Rhamnus cathartica (ECM association) on the different fungal types. We also investigated the effects of F. japonica and R. cathartica exudates on AMF root colonization. Our results suggest that the allelopathic plant exudates impact seedlings directly by inhibiting germination and indirectly by degrading fungal mutualists. Novel weapons inhibited allopatric seedling germination but sympatric species were unaffected. However, seedling survivorship and growth appeared more dependent on mycorrhizal fungi, and mycorrhizal fungi were inhibited by allopatric species. These results suggest that novel weapons promote plant invasion by directly inhibiting allopatric competitor germination and indirectly by inhibiting mutualist fungi necessary for growth and survival.
The language that scientists use to frame biological invasions may reveal inherent bias - including how data are interpreted. A frequent critique of invasion biology is the use of value-laden language that may indicate context bias. Here we use a systematic study of language and interpretation in papers drawn from invasion biology to evaluate whether there is a link between the framing of papers and the interpretation of results. We also examine any trends in context bias in biological invasion research. We examined 651 peer-reviewed invasive species competition studies and implemented a rigorous systematic review to examine bias in the presentation and interpretation of native and invasive competition in invasion biology. We predicted that bias in the presentation of invasive species is increasing, as suggested by several authors, and that bias against invasive species would result in misinterpreting their competitive dominance in correlational observational studies compared to causative experimental studies. We indeed found evidence of bias in the presentation and interpretation of invasive species research; authors often introduced research with invasive species in a negative context and study results were interpreted against invasive species more in correlational studies. However, we also found a distinct decrease in those biases since the mid-2000s. Given that there have been several waves of criticism from scientists both inside and outside invasion biology, our evidence suggests that the subdiscipline has somewhat self-corrected apparent biases.
Many plant seeds travel on the wind and through animal ingestion or adhesion; however, an overlooked dispersal mode may lurk within those dispersal modes. Viable seeds may remain attached or embedded within materials birds gather for nest building. Our objective was to determine if birds inadvertently transport seeds when they forage for plant materials to build, insulate and line nests. We also hypothesized that nest-mediated dispersal might be particularly useful for plants that use mating systems with self-fertilized seeds embedded in their stems. We gathered bird nests in temperate forests and fields in eastern North America and germinated the plant material. We also employed experimental nest boxes and performed nest dissections to rule out airborne and fecal contamination. We found that birds collect plant stem material and mud for nest construction and inadvertently transport the seeds contained within. Experimental nest boxes indicated that bird nests were not passive recipients of seeds (e.g., carried on wind), but arrived in the materials used to construct nests. We germinated 144 plant species from the nests of 23 bird species. A large proportion of the nest germinants were graminoids containing self-fertilized seeds inside stems – suggesting that nest dispersal may be an adaptive benefit of closed mating systems. Avian nest building appears a dispersal pathway for hundreds of plant species, including many non-native species, at distances of at least 100-200 m. We propose a new plant dispersal guild to describe this phenomenon, caliochory (calio = Greek for nest).
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