Invasive Species Compendium

Detailed coverage of invasive species threatening livelihoods and the environment worldwide

Abstract

Ecophysiological basis of the Jack-and-Master strategy: Taraxacum officinale (dandelion) as an example of a successful invader.

Abstract

Aims: Successful invasive plants are often assumed to display significant levels of phenotypic plasticity. Three possible strategies by which phenotypic plasticity may allow invasive plant species to thrive in changing environments have been suggested: (i) via plasticity in morphological or physiological traits, invasive plants are able to maintain a higher fitness than native plants in a range of environments, including stressful or low-resource habitats: a 'Jack-of-all-trades' strategy; (ii) phenotypic plasticity allows the invader to better exploit resources available in low stress or favorable habitats, showing higher fitness than native ones: a 'Master-of-some' strategy and (iii) a combination of these abilities, the 'Jack-and-Master' strategy. Methods: We evaluated these strategies in the successful invader Taraxacum officinale in a controlled experiment mimicking natural environmental gradients. We set up three environmental gradients consisting of factorial arrays of two levels of temperature/light, temperature/water and light/water, respectively. We compared several ecophysiological traits, as well as the reaction norm in fitness-related traits, in both T. officinale and the closely related native Hypochaeris thrincioides subjected to these environmental scenarios. Important Findings: Overall, T. officinale showed significantly greater accumulation of biomass and higher survival than the native H. thrincioides, with this difference being more pronounced toward both ends of each gradient. T. officinale also showed significantly higher plasticity than its native counterpart in several ecophysiological traits. Therefore, T. officinale exhibits a Jack-and-Master strategy as it is able to maintain higher biomass and survival in unfavorable conditions, as well as to increase fitness when conditions are favorable. We suggest that this strategy is partly based on ecophysiological responses to the environment, and that it may contribute to explaining the successful invasion of T. officinale across different habitats.