Questions: Invasiveness depends in part on the ability of exotic species to either exclude native dominants or to fill an empty niche. Comparisons of niches and effects of closely related native and invasive species enable the investigation of this topic. Does Spartina anglica invade European salt marshes through competitive exclusion of the native Spartina maritima or due to the occurrence of an empty ecological niche in highly anoxic conditions? Location: The Arcachon Bay (France). Methods: At three intertidal levels, we quantified competitive response and effect abilities of the two species through a cross-transplantation removal experiment. We also compared at three intertidal levels the biomass, root/shoot ratio, productivity and environmental conditions (elevation, salinity, potential redox and soil moisture) of salt marsh communities dominated by the exotic Spartina anglica or the native Spartina maritima. Results: Both established species showed similar biotic resistance to the invasion of the other species, but the exotic showed important intraspecific facilitation for growth. Species had similar niches and total biomass along a gradient of anoxic conditions, but the exotic had a much higher root/shoot ratio and productivity than the native. Owing to its rhizome density, the exotic showed a high ability to increase sediment oxygenation, likely to explain its important intraspecific facilitation. Conclusions: Our results showed that the invasion success of S. anglica cannot be explained by the competitive exclusion of the native or by its ability to fill an empty niche along a gradient of anoxia. Its behaviour as a self-facilitator invasive engineer is very likely to explain its rapid spread in the Bay and biotic resistance to the colonization of other congeneric species when established in dense patches. Additionally, we suggest that physical disturbance in the marsh communities dominated by the native S. maritima may disrupt its biotic resistance against the invasion of S. anglica.
|Date made available||Jan 1 2019|
|Publisher||Institut Français de Recherche pour l'Exploitation de la Mer|