Immigration rates of species into communities are widely understood to influence community diversity, which in turn is widely expected to influence the susceptibility of ecosystems to species invasion. For a given community, however, immigration processes may impact diversity by means of two separable components: the number of species represented in seed inputs and the density of seed per species. The independent effects of these components on plant species diversity and consequent rates of invasion are poorly understood. We constructed experimental plant communities through repeated seed additions to independently measure the effects of seed richness and seed density on the trajectory of species diversity during the development of annual plant communities. Because we sowed species not found in the immediate study area, we were able to assess the invasibility of the resulting communities by recording the rate of establishment of species from adjacent vegetation. Early in community development when species only weakly interacted, seed richness had a strong effect on community diversity whereas seed density had little effect. After the plants became established, the effect of seed richness on measured diversity strongly depended on seed density, and disappeared at the highest level of seed density. The ability of surrounding vegetation to invade the experimental communities was decreased by seed density but not by seed richness, primarily because the individual effects of a few sown species could explain the observed invasion rates. These results suggest that seed density is just as important as seed richness in the control of species diversity, and perhaps a more important determinant of community invasibility than seed richness in dynamic plant assemblages.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics