Physiological and morphological traits of exotic, invasive exotic, and native plant species in tallgrass prairie

TitlePhysiological and morphological traits of exotic, invasive exotic, and native plant species in tallgrass prairie
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2001
AuthorsSmith, MD, Knapp, AK
JournalInternational Journal of Plant Sciences
Pagination785 -792
Accession NumberKNZ00788
Keywordsbiomass allocation, grassland, invasive plants, photosynthesis, specific leaf area

We compared 13 traits of invasive exotic, noninvasive exotic, and ecologically similar native species to determine if there are generalizable differences among these groups that relate to persistence and spread of exotic species in tallgrass prairie plant communities. When species were grouped as invasive (two species), noninvasive (five species), and native (six species), no differences were found for the suite of traits examined, likely because of the high variability within and between groups. However, when exotic species, regardless of invasiveness, were compared with the native species, specific leaf area was ca. 40% higher for the exotic species, a result that is consistent with that of other studies. This pattern was also observed for five of seven pairwise comparisons of exotic and native species with similar life history traits. In contrast, total end‐of‐season biomass was as much as three times higher for the native species in five of seven of the native‐exotic species pairs. For other traits, differences between exotic and native species were species‐specific and were generally more numerous for noninvasive than for invasive exotic species pair‐wise comparisons. Thus, contrary to predictions, exotic species capable of successfully invading tallgrass prairie did not differ considerably from native species in most traits related to resource utilization and carbon gain. Moreover, invasive exotic species, those capable of displacing native species and dominating a community, were not distinct for the observed traits from their native counterparts. These results indicate that other traits, such as the ability to respond to resource pulses or herbivory, may explain more effectively why certain invasive species are able to invade these communities aggressively.