Reducing nutrient availability and enhancing biotic resistance limits settlement and growth of the invasive Australian swamp stonecrop (Crassula helmsii)
Date of Archiving2022
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Animal Ecology & Physiology
Aquatic Ecology and Environmental Biology
Key wordsAlien plant; amphibious weed; global drivers; non-native plant; semi-terrestrial growth; vegetation dominance
The Australian swamp stonecrop is invasive due to its efficient colonization of empty niches. The establishment of dense C. helmsii growth is threatening native biodiversity and functioning of freshwater ecosystems. In this study we’ve tested the competitive strength of C. helmsii in a greenhouse experiment with two native competitor species of the same habitat type, Pilularia globulifera and Littorella uniflora. After the collection of native vernation and bare soil sods we manually infested these with 60 propagules of C. helmsii. The settlement and growth of C. helmsii was assessed (by counting) after five weeks. In addition, the effect of nutrient enrichment by water bird feces on competition was studied by adding waterfowl droppings. Additionally we’ve measured nutrients in soil and water samples (by AA- and ICP analysis) collected from the sods. This gives insights in the establishment success and invasiveness of C. helmsii in absence of native competitors and eutrophication. *The data appropriate to this article may contain Dutch notes. For an English explanation, please contact the author of the data Abstract of the paper: The invasive Australian swamp stonecrop, Crassula helmsii, is a perennial amphibious herb originating from Australia and New Zealand. In freshwater wetlands of North-western Europe, this alien plant species is invasive due to its efficient colonization of empty niches. The establishment of dense C. helmsii growth is threatening native biodiversity and functioning of freshwater ecosystems, especially oligotrophic wetlands with high disturbance and nutrient enrichments. As the effects of these potential drivers of ecosystem degradation are generally difficult to determine in the field, we tested the competitive strength of C. helmsii in a greenhouse experiment with two native competitor species of the same habitat type, Pilularia globulifera and Littorella uniflora. Sods dominated by either of the native species, as well as bare soils, were collected from the field and manually infested with propagules of C. helmsii. Settlement and growth of C. helmsii was assessed after five weeks. In addition, the effect of nutrient enrichment by water bird feces on competition was studied by adding waterfowl droppings. C. helmsii was able to settle successfully in all treatments, but P. globulifera and L. uniflora dominance reduced settlement success and growth of C. helmsii. On vegetated sods, the addition of waterfowl droppings had a low effect on the performance of C. helmsii, however, this treatment significantly increased biomass production on bare soils with low nutrient availability. We conclude that both absence of native competitors and eutrophication, including guanotrophication by waterfowl, explain the establishment success and invasiveness of C. helmsii. Given the fact that eradication of C. helmsii is very challenging, our results imply that management should focus on a combination of increasing local species densities and abating eutrophication. This will strongly limit the window of opportunity for invasion of C. helmsii and enhance resistance by native plant communities.