Recruitment Limitation, Seedling Performance and Persistence of Exotic Tree Monocultures
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Many native plant communities are replaced by exotic monocultures that may be successional stages or persistent community types. We surveyed a stand of Sapium sebiferum (Chinese Tallow Tree) that replaced tallgrass prairie in Texas and performed experiments with seeds and seedlings to determine the contributions of recruitment limitation and natural enemy release to allowing such a forest type to persist or to allowing native species to reduce Sapium dominance. The stand was dominated by Sapium, especially for mature trees (>99) and annual seed input (97) but less so for saplings (80). Field sown Sapium seeds had lower germination and survival rates than Celtis seeds. Together with the extreme dominance of Sapium in seed rain this suggests that native species are currently recruitment limited in this stand by seed supply but not by germination, early growth or survival. To investigate whether Sapium may benefit from low herbivory or diseases, we transplanted Sapium and Celtis seedlings into the forest and manipulated foliar fungal diseases and insect herbivores with sprays. As predicted, insect herbivores caused greater damage to Celtis seedlings than to Sapiumseedlings. However, suppression of insect herbivores caused significantly greater increases in survivorship of Sapium seedlings compared to Celtis seedlings. This suggests that herbivores in the understory of this Sapiumforest may significantly reduce Sapiumseedling success. Such a pattern of strong herbivore impact on seedlings growing near adult conspecifics was unexpected for this invasive species. However, even with insects and fungi suppressed, Sapium seedling performance was poor in this forest. Our results point towards Sapium as a successional species in a forest that will eventually be dominated by native trees that are currently recruitment limited but outperform Sapium in the understory. © Springer 2006.
author list (cited authors)
Siemann, E., & Rogers, W. E.