Increased resource availability can facilitate establishment of exotic plant species, especially when coincident with propagule supply. Following establishment, increased resource availability may also facilitate the spread of exotic plant species if it enhances their competitive abilities relative to native species. Exotic Canada geese (Branta canadensis) introduce both exotic grass seed and nutrients to an endangered plant community on the Gulf Islands of southwestern British Columbia, Canada. I used greenhouse experiments to assess the competitive advantage of the exotic grasses relative to native and exotic forbs in this community and to test the impacts of nutrient addition from goose feces on competitive outcomes. I grew experimental communities varying in their proportion of forbs versus exotic grasses, and added goose feces as a nutrient source. I found that both native and exotic forbs produced significantly more biomass in competition with conspecifics than in competition with the grasses, and that the proportional abundance of two out of three native forbs was lowest in the combined presence of exotic grasses and nutrient addition. In a second experiment, I found that in monoculture all species of forbs and grasses showed equal growth responses to nutrients. The exotic species did not convert additional nutrients into additional biomass at a higher rate, but did germinate earlier and grow larger than the native species regardless of nutrient availability. This suggests that the exotic species may have achieved their competitive advantage partly by pre-empting resources in community mixtures. Small and late-germinating native forbs may be particularly vulnerable to competitive suppression from exotic grasses and forbs and may be at an even greater disadvantage if their competitors are benefiting from early access to additional nutrients. In combination, the input of exotic propagules and additional nutrients by nesting geese may compromise efforts to maintain native community composition in this system.
- Canada goose
- Oak woodland
- Plant invasion
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics