Impact of the Invasive Alien Plant Solidago Gigantea on Primary Productivity, Plant Nutrient Content and Soil Mineral Nutrient Concentrations

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Abstract

Invasion by alien plants can alter ecosystem processes and soil properties. In this study, we compared aboveground productivity, nutrient pools in standing biomass and topsoil (0-0.10 m) mineral nutrient concentrations between plots invaded by Early Goldenrod (Solidago gigantea) and adjacent, uninvaded, vegetation at five sites in Belgium. The five sites were characterised by a resident perennial herbaceous vegetation and spanned a wide range in soil fertility level and floristic composition. Invaded stands consistently had higher (2-3-fold) aboveground productivity and lower mineral element concentrations in standing phytomass. Nutrient pools (calculated as concentration × phytomass) was ca. twice higher in invaded plots, suggesting that S. gigantea might enhance nutrient cycling rates. Impacts on topsoil chemistry were surprisingly modest, with slightly higher nutrient concentrations under the invader. A noticeable exception was phosphorus, which showed higher concentrations of ammonium acetate-extractable fraction in invaded plots in four of five sites. It appears that S. gigantea does not significantly contribute to nutrient uplift from deep soil layers to topsoil, possibly because it does not root much deeper compared to resident vegetation.

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