Co-occurring nonnative woody shrubs have additive and non-additive soil legacies

To maximize limited conservation funds and prioritize management projects that are likely to succeed, accurate assessment of invasive nonnative species impacts is essential. A common challenge to prioritization is a limited knowledge of the difference between the impacts of a single nonnative species compared to the impacts of nonnative species when they co-occur, and in particular predicting when impacts of co-occurring nonnative species will be non-additive. Understanding non-additivity is important for management decisions because the management of only one co-occurring invader will not necessarily lead to a predictable reduction in the impact or growth of the other nonnative plant. Nonnative plants are frequently associated with changes in soil biotic and abiotic characteristics, which lead to plant–soil interactions that influence the performance of other species grown in those soils. Whether co-occurring nonnative plants alter soil properties additively or non-additively relative to their effects on soils when they grow in monoculture is rarely addressed. We use a greenhouse plant–soil feedback experiment to test for non-additive soil impacts of two common invasive nonnative woody shrubs, Lonicera maackii and Ligustrum sinense, in deciduous forests of the southeastern United States. We measured the performance of each nonnative shrub, a native herbaceous community, and a nonnative woody vine in soils conditioned by each shrub singly or together in polyculture. Soils conditioned by both nonnative shrubs had non-addtive impacts on native and nonnative performance. Root mass of the native herbaceous community was 1.5 times lower and the root mass of the nonnative L. sinense was 1.8 times higher in soils conditioned by both L. maackii and L. sinense than expected based upon growth in soils conditioned by either shrub singly. This result indicates that when these two nonnative shrubs co-occur, their influence on soils disproportionally favors persistence of the nonnative L. sinense relative to this native herbaceous community, and could provide an explanation of why native species abundance is frequently depressed in these communities. Additionally, the difference between native and nonnative performance demonstrtes that invasive impact studies focusing on the impact only of single species can be insufficient for determining the impact of co-occurring invasive plant species. Key words: Ceastrus orbiculatus; co-occurring or codominant invaders; exotic; invasive; Ligustrum sinense; Lonicera maackii; plant–soil interactions; soil legacies.