The impact of the invasive shrub Lonicera maackii on the decomposition dynamics of a native plant community

Megan M. Poulette, Mary A. Arthur

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

51 Scopus citations


Invasive plants may have variable effects within a given environment depending on their interactions with the dominant native species, yet little research has examined such species-species interactions within a site. Savanna trees with nonoverlapping canopies offer an ideal opportunity to assess associated changes in the ecosystem processes that result from interactions between an invasive species and different native tree species. We examined the influence of the exotic invasive shrub Lonicera maackii on decomposition dynamics under three native tree species: Fraxinus quadrangulata, Quercus muehlenbergii, and Carya ovata. Litter decomposition rates and litter C and N were evaluated over two years using single-and mixed-species litterbags (L. maackii and individual tree species litter); microarthropod abundance was measured at 6 weeks using Tulgren funnels. Litter from the invasive L. maackii decomposed and lost N more rapidly than the litter of the three native tree species. The rate at which L. maackii decomposed depended on its location, with L. maackii litter decomposing and losing N more rapidly under C. ovata than under the other two native tree species. Mixing L. maackii with the native species' litter did not accelerate litter mass loss overall but did result in synergistic N losses at variable times throughout the experiment, further highlighting the variable interaction between native species and L. maackii. Nitrogen loss was significantly higher than expected in mixtures of C. ovata L. maackii litter at 6 weeks, in F. quadrangulata L. maackii litter at 12 weeks, and in Q. muehlenbergii L. maackii litter at 24 weeks. If the effects of invasive species on certain ecosystem processes, such as litter decomposition, are strongly influenced by their association with native species, this could suggest the need for a more nuanced understanding of the vulnerability of ecosystem processes to invasions of L. maackii and potentially other invasive species.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)412-424
Number of pages13
JournalEcological Applications
Issue number2
StatePublished - Mar 2012


  • Biological invasion
  • C:N
  • Exotic species
  • Litter decomposition
  • Lonicera maackii
  • Nitrogen

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology


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