Growth and photosynthetic responses of invasive Bidens frondosa to light and water availability: a comparison with invasive and native congeners.
Bidens frondosa is a new invasive species in China. However, the mechanisms underlying its invasiveness are still not understood. This study compared the new invader with its invasive congener, Bidens pilosa, and two native congeners, Bidens biternata and Bidens tripartita, in terms of their morphology, growth, biomass allocation and photosynthetic parameters across variant light and water conditions, aiming to explore the traits that are associated with the invasiveness of the invasive species. All these species are annual herbs. The results showed that the four congeners had a similar tendency of plasticity in their morphological and growth traits to varying light and water, but their response was quantitatively different. Most of the morphological and growing variables, as well as the photosynthetic parameters, were affected more strongly by manipulated light levels. Although B. frondosa had a lower total biomass and relative growth rate than the invasive congener, B. pilosa, the trait values related to growth (e.g. plant height, total biomass, relative growth rate and specific leaf area) and the mean value of the plasticity index were higher for the invasive B. frondosa than for the native B. tripartita. These could contribute to the invasiveness of the invasive species. In addition, the native species, B. biternata, is a vigorous weed with a strong adaptive capacity across various light and water gradients, suggesting that it has the potential to be invasive if introduced into areas with suitable conditions for growth.