• Schamp, Brandon S.
  • Aarssen, Lonnie W.


Large plant species self-thin to disproportionately lower densities than smaller plant species, and therefore may leave more patches of unused space suitable for invasion. Using experimental monocultures of 11 old-field perennial plant species differing in maximum size, as well as mixtures composed of all monoculture species, we tested our primary hypothesis that monocultures of larger species will be more susceptible to natural invasion. After 3 years, monocultures of larger species were invaded by a significantly greater number of species, and more ramets, from the surrounding vegetation. Invading plant species were significantly smaller than the monoculture species being invaded, suggesting that smaller plant species may be better invaders. Thus, we quantified a trade-off between species size, which is frequently associated with increased competitive ability for light, and invasibility, suggesting one reason why large and small species coexist in virtually all plant communities. Although we expected that invasion would enhance biomass production by more fully capturing available resources, we found that the most highly invaded plots of each species produced significantly less biomass. This suggests that increased diversity resulting from invasion did not result in complementary resource use. Mixture plots containing all experimental species did not admit a significantly different number of invading ramets or species than most monocultures, indicating no obvious role for diversity in resistance to invasion, or complementary resource use. Our results suggest that relatively large species may be limited in their capacity to competitively exclude other, smaller species from communities because pure stands of the former are more susceptible to invasion by the latter.