PerspectivePlant Science

An Invasive Plant Paradox

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Science  08 May 2009:
Vol. 324, Issue 5928, pp. 734-735
DOI: 10.1126/science.1173651

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Why some plants attain extremely high densities in communities where they are exotic, yet remain at low densities in their native ranges is a mystery. The pattern has been called a “paradox” because it conflicts with long-held ideas about the importance of local adaptation for the ecological performance of organisms (1). This biogeographical shift may be connected to other apparent ecological paradoxes that occur with plant invasions involving processes mediated by soil microbes. Invasions can decrease plant species diversity but also increase plant productivity. Rather than depleting soil resources as productivity increases, invasions often increase soil stocks, pools, and fluxes of nitrogen through processes regulated by microbial communities.