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Durham University

Department of Biosciences


Publication details for Dr Wayne Dawson

Mueller, G., van Kleunen, M. & Dawson, W. (2016). Commonness and rarity of alien and native plant species - the relative roles of intraspecific competition and plant - soil feedback. Oikos 125(10): 1458-1466.

Author(s) from Durham


The success of invasive alien and common native species may be explained by the same underlying mechanisms. Differences in intraspecific competition as well as differences in plant–soil feedback have been put forward as potential determinants of plant success. We teased apart the relative roles of competition and plant–soil feedback in a greenhouse experiment with 30 common and rare alien and native species from nine plant families. We tested whether plant biomass decreased less for common than rare species, regardless of origin, when grown at higher relative frequencies (1, 3 or 6 out of 9 plants per pot) in a community and in soil previously conditioned by the same species at different frequencies (0, 1, 3 or 6 out of 9 plants per pot) in an orthogonal design for these two factors. Plant survival decreased slightly, but non-significantly, for all species when grown in soil previously occupied by conspecifics. Among surviving plants, we found a decrease in biomass with increasing intraspecific competition across all species (regardless of origin or commonness), and alien species were more negatively affected by previous high plant frequency than native species, but only marginally significantly so. Our findings suggest that, while intraspecific competition limits individual biomass in a density-dependent manner, these effects do not depend on species origin or commonness. Notably, alien species but not natives showed a decrease in performance when grown in soil pre-conditioned with a higher frequency of conspecifics. In conclusion, soil-borne pathogen accumulation might be weak in its effects on plant performance compared to intraspecific competition, with neither being clearly linked to species commonness.