Latitudinal variation of life-history traits of an exotic and a native impatiens species in Europe.
Understanding the responses of invasive and native populations to environmental change is crucial for reliable predictions of invasions in the face of global change. While comparisons of responses across invasive species with different life histories have been performed before, comparing functional traits of congeneric native and invasive species may help to reveal driving factors associated with invasion. Here we compared morphological functional trait patterns of an invasive species (Impatiens parviflora) with its congeneric native species (I. noli-tangere) along an approximately 1600 km European latitudinal gradient from France (49°34′N) to Norway (63°40′N). Soil nitrogen was recorded during six weeks of the growing season, and light, soil moisture, and nutrient availability were estimated for each sampled population using community weighted means of indicator values for co-occurring species. Temperature data were gathered from nearby weather stations. Both the native and invasive species are taller at higher latitudes and this response is strongest in the invasive species. Seed mass and number of seeds per capsule increase in I. noli-tangere but decrease in I. parviflora towards higher latitudes. Surprisingly, plant height in the invasive I. parviflora decreases with increasing soil nitrogen availability. The latitudinal pattern in seed mass is positively related to temperature in I. noli-tangere and negatively in I. parviflora. Leaf area of both species decreases with increasing Ellenberg indicator values for nitrogen and light but increases with increasing soil moisture. Soil nitrogen concentrations and Ellenberg indicator values for nitrogen have significant positive (I. noli-tangere) and negative (I. parviflora) effects on the number of seeds per capsule. Our results show that the native I. noli-tangere has efficient reproduction at its range edge while the invasive I. parviflora shows a marked decrease in seed size and seed number per capsule. These patterns are unrelated to the growth and obtained size of the plants: even low soil nitrogen availability in the north seemed not to limit plant growth and size. Our results suggest that the invasive I. parviflora tends to become more invasive at lower latitudes by producing heavier seeds and more seeds per capsule.