Invasive Species Compendium

Detailed coverage of invasive species threatening livelihoods and the environment worldwide

Abstract

Invasive species can handle higher leaf temperature under water stress than Mediterranean natives.

Abstract

Thermal tolerance of Photosystem II (PSII) highly influences plant distribution worldwide because it allows for photosynthesis during periods of high temperatures and water stress, which are common in most terrestrial ecosystems and particularly in dry and semi-arid ones. However, there is a lack of information about how this tolerance influences invasiveness of exotic species in ecosystems with seasonal drought. To address this question for Mediterranean-type ecosystems (MTE) of the Iberian Peninsula, we carried out an experiment with fifteen phylogenetically related species (8 invasive and 7 native, Pinus pinaster Ait., Pinus radiata D. Don, Schinus molle Linn., Elaeagnus angustifolia L., Eucalyptus globulus Labill., Acacia melanoxylon R. Br., Gleditsia triacanthos L., Pistacia terebinthus L., Rhamnus alaternus L., Anagyris foetida L., Colutea arborescens L., Oenothera biennis L., Epilobium hirsutum L., Achillea filipendulina Lam. and Achillea millefolium L). Seedlings were grown and maximal photochemical efficiency of PSII (Fv/Fm) was measured at two water availabilities (well-watered and with water stress). PSII thermal tolerance measurements were related to specific leaf area (SLA), which varied significantly across the study species, and to the mean potential evapotranspiration (PET) of the month with the lowest precipitation in the native areas of both groups and in the invaded area of the Iberian Peninsula. Additionally, PSII thermal tolerance measurements under water stress were phylogenetically explored. Invasive and native species neither differed in SLA nor in their thermal tolerance under well-watered conditions. For well-watered plants, SLA was significantly and positively related to PSII thermal tolerance when all species were explored together regardless of their invasive nature. However, this relationship did not persist under water stress and invasive species had higher plastic responses than Mediterranean natives resulting in higher leaf temperatures. Higher PSII thermal tolerance could explain invasiveness because it allows for longer periods of carbon acquisition under water stress. In fact, PSII thermal tolerance was positively related to the PET of the invaded and native areas of the Iberian Peninsula. PSII thermal tolerance was not related to PET at the native range of the invasive species, suggesting that successful invasive species were plastic enough to cope with novel dry conditions of the Iberian Peninsula. Moreover, our phylogenetic results indicate that future scenarios of increased aridity in MTE associated to climate change will filter invasion success by taxonomic identity. This study reveals the importance of studying ecophysiological traits to understand and better predict future biological invasions.