Impacts of Carpobrotus edulis (L.) N.E.Br. on the germination, establishment and survival of native plants: A clue for assessing its competitive strength
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Does Carpobrotus edulis have an impact on native plants? How do C. edulis’ soil residual effects affect the maintenance of native populations? What is the extent of interspecific competition in its invasion process? In order to answer those questions, we established pure and mixed cultures of native species and C. edulis on soil collected from invaded and native areas of Mediterranean coastal dunes in the Iberian Peninsula. We examined the impact of the invader on the germination, growth and survival of seeds and adult plants of two native plant species (Malcolmia littorea (L.) R.Br, and Scabiosa atropurpurea L.) growing with ramets or seeds of C. edulis. Residual effects of C. edulis on soils affected the germination process and early growth of native plants in different ways, depending on plant species and density. Interspecific competition significantly reduced the germination and early growth of native plants but this result was soil, density, timing and plant species dependent. Also, at any density of adult individuals of C. edulis, established native adult plants were not competitive. Moreover, ramets of C. edulis had a lethal effect on native plants, which died in a short period of time. Even the presence of C. edulis seedlings prevents the recruitment of native species. In conclusion, C. edulis have strong negative impacts on the germination, growth and survival of the native species M. littorea and S. atropurpurea. These impacts were highly depended on the development stages of native and invasive plants. Our findings are crucial for new strategies of biodiversity conservation in coastal habitats.