Invasive Species Compendium

Detailed coverage of invasive species threatening livelihoods and the environment worldwide

Abstract

Rapid alignment of functional trait variation with locality across the invaded range of Sahara mustard (Brassica tournefortii).

Abstract

Premise of Study: Mechanisms by which invasive species succeed across multiple novel environmental contexts are poorly understood. Functional traits show promise for identifying such mechanisms, yet we lack knowledge of which functional traits are critical for success and how they vary across invaded ranges and with environmental features. We evaluated the widespread recent invasion of Sahara mustard (Brassica tournefortii) in the southwestern United States to understand the extent of functional trait variation across the invaded range and how such variation is related to spatial and climatic gradients. Methods: We used a common garden approach, growing two generations of plants in controlled conditions sourced from 10 locations across the invaded range. We measured variation within and among populations in phenological, morphological, and physiological traits, as well as performance. Key Results: We found nine key traits that varied among populations. These traits were related to phenology and early growth strategies, such as the timing of germination and flowering, as well as relative allocation of biomass to reproduction and individual seed mass. Trait variation was related most strongly to variation in winter precipitation patterns across localities, though variations in temperature and latitude also had significant contributions. Conclusions: Our results identify key functional traits of this invasive species that showed significant variation among introduced populations across a broad geographic and climatic range. Further, trait variation among populations was strongly related to key climatic variables, which suggests that population divergence in these traits may explain the successful colonization of Sahara mustard across its invaded US range.