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      Resource competition in plant invasions: emerging patterns and research needs

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          Invasions by alien plants provide a unique opportunity to examine competitive interactions among plants. While resource competition has long been regarded as a major mechanism responsible for successful invasions, given a well-known capacity for many invaders to become dominant and reduce plant diversity in the invaded communities, few studies have measured resource competition directly or have assessed its importance relative to that of other mechanisms, at different stages of an invasion process. Here, we review evidence comparing the competitive ability of invasive species vs. that of co-occurring native plants, along a range of environmental gradients, showing that many invasive species have a superior competitive ability over native species, although invasive congeners are not necessarily competitively superior over native congeners, nor are alien dominants are better competitors than native dominants. We discuss how the outcomes of competition depend on a number of factors, such as the heterogeneous distribution of resources, the stage of the invasion process, as well as phenotypic plasticity and evolutionary adaptation, which may result in increased or decreased competitive ability in both invasive and native species. Competitive advantages of invasive species over natives are often transient and only important at the early stages of an invasion process. It remains unclear how important resource competition is relative to other mechanisms (competition avoidance via phenological differences, niche differentiation in space associated with phylogenetic distance, recruitment and dispersal limitation, indirect competition, and allelopathy). Finally, we identify the conceptual and methodological issues characterizing competition studies in plant invasions, and we discuss future research needs, including examination of resource competition dynamics and the impact of global environmental change on competitive interactions between invasive and native species.

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            Benefits of plant diversity to ecosystems: immediate, filter and founder effects

             J. P. Grime (1998)
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              Abiotic stress, the field environment and stress combination.

               Ron Mittler (2005)
              Farmers and breeders have long known that often it is the simultaneous occurrence of several abiotic stresses, rather than a particular stress condition, that is most lethal to crops. Surprisingly, the co-occurrence of different stresses is rarely addressed by molecular biologists that study plant acclimation. Recent studies have revealed that the response of plants to a combination of two different abiotic stresses is unique and cannot be directly extrapolated from the response of plants to each of the different stresses applied individually. Tolerance to a combination of different stress conditions, particularly those that mimic the field environment, should be the focus of future research programs aimed at developing transgenic crops and plants with enhanced tolerance to naturally occurring environmental conditions.

                Author and article information

                Front Plant Sci
                Front Plant Sci
                Front. Plant Sci.
                Frontiers in Plant Science
                Frontiers Media S.A.
                29 September 2014
                : 5
                1Department of Invasion Ecology, Institute of Botany, Academy of Sciences of the Czech Republic Prùhonice, Czech Republic
                2University College Dublin School of Biology and Environmental Science, University College Dublin Dublin, Ireland
                3University College Dublin Earth Institute, University College Dublin Dublin, Ireland
                Author notes

                Edited by: Judy Simon, University of Konstanz, Germany

                Reviewed by: Jana Müllerová, Institute of Botany Academy of Sciences of the Czech Republic, Czech Republic; Noelie Maurel, University of Konstanz, Germany

                *Correspondence: Margherita Gioria, University College Dublin School of Biology and Environmental Science, University College Dublin, Science Centre West, Belfield, Dublin 4, Ireland e-mail: margheritagioria1@ 123456gmail.com

                This article was submitted to Functional Plant Ecology, a section of the journal Frontiers in Plant Science.

                Copyright © 2014 Gioria and Osborne.

                This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY). The use, distribution or reproduction in other forums is permitted, provided the original author(s) or licensor are credited and that the original publication in this journal is cited, in accordance with accepted academic practice. No use, distribution or reproduction is permitted which does not comply with these terms.

                Page count
                Figures: 1, Tables: 0, Equations: 0, References: 322, Pages: 21, Words: 21454
                Plant Science
                Review Article


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