Response of the invader Cortaderia selloana and two coexisting natives to competition and water stress

Roser Domènech, Montserrat Vilà

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

19 Citations (Scopus)


Alien species' resistance and adjustment to water stress and plant competition might largely determine the success of invasions in Mediterranean ecosystems because water availability is often limiting biomass production. Two outdoor pot experiments were conducted to test the hypotheses that at the recruitment stage the invader perennial tussock grass Cortaderia selloana is a superior competitor, and that it is more resistant to water stress than the two coexisting native species of the same functional group, Festuca arundinacea and Brachypodium phoenicoides. C. selloana reduced aboveground biomass of target native species, but not more than target native species on each other. Moreover, C. selloana did not resist interspecific competition more than target native species. Under control conditions, C. selloana did not have larger specific leaf area (SLA) and root-shoot ratio (R/S) ratio than target native species, contradicting the general statement that these traits are associated to invasiveness. F. arundinacea was the species which performed best but also the one most affected by water stress. Both C. selloana and B. phoenicoides performed in a similar way under water stress conditions. However, the alien species' capacity to adjust to water stress, indicated by the increase in the root-shoot ratio under moderate and severe water stress, was slightly better than that of B. phoenicoides. Overall, at early recruitment stages, C. selloana is not a better competitor than the coexisting native species. However, it seems to be more resistant to water stress because as water becomes scarce C. selloana maximizes water uptake and minimizes water losses more than the native species. © 2008 Springer Science+Business Media B.V.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)903-912
JournalBiological Invasions
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 1 Aug 2008


  • Alien plant
  • Brachypodium phoenicoides
  • Festuca arundinacea
  • Intra- and interspecific competition
  • Perennial grasses
  • Relative interaction index
  • Root-shoot ratio
  • SLA


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