Interaction between Ailanthus altissima and Native Robinia pseudoacacia in Early Succession: Implications for Forest Management
The goal of this study was to discover the nature and intensity of the interaction between an exotic invader Ailanthus altissima (Mill.) Swingle and its coexisting native Robinia pseudoacacia L. and consider management implications. The study occurred in the Mid-Appalachian region of the eastern United States. Ailanthus altissima can have a strong negative influence on community diversity and succession due to its allelopathic nature while R. pseudoacacia can have a positive effect on community diversity and succession because of its ability to fix nitrogen. How these trees interact and the influence of the interaction on succession will have important implications for forests in many regions of the world. An additive-replacement series common garden experiment was established to identify the type and extent of interactions between these trees over a three-year period. Both A. altissima and R. pseudoacacia grown in monoculture were inhibited by intraspecific competition. In the first year, A. altissima grown with R. pseudoacacia tended to be larger than A. altissima in monoculture, suggesting that R. pseudoacacia may facilitate the growth of A. altissima at the seedling stage. After the second year, R. pseudoacacia growth decreased as the proportion of coexisting A. altissima increased, indicating inhibition of R. pseudoacacia by A. altissima even though the R. pseudoacacia plants were much larger aboveground than the A. altissima plants. In early successional sites A. altissima should be removed, particularly in the presence of R. pseudoacacia in order to promote long-term community succession.