Syndromes in suites of correlated traits suggest multiple mechanisms facilitating invasion in a plant range-expander.
Various mechanisms can facilitate the success of plant invasions simultaneously, but may be difficult to disentangle. In the present study, plants of the range-expanding species Bunias orientalis from native, invasive and naturalised, not yet invasive populations were compared in a field common garden over two years. Plants were grown under two nitrate-regimes and multiple traits regarding growth, defence, antagonist loads and reproduction were measured. A rank-based clustering approach was used to assign correlated traits to distinct suites. These suites were analysed for "syndromes" that are expressed as a function of population origin and/or fertilisation treatment and might represent different invasion mechanisms. Indeed, distinct suites of traits were differentially affected by these factors. The results suggest that several pre-adaptation properties, such as certain growth characteristics and intraspecific chemical variation, as well as post-introduction adaptations to antagonists and resource availability in novel habitats, are candidate mechanisms that facilitate the success of invasive B. orientalis in parallel. It was concluded that rank-based clustering is a robust and expedient approach to integrate multiple traits for elucidating invasion syndromes within individual species. Studying a multitude of traits at different life-history and establishment stages of plants grown under distinct resource treatments reveals species-specific trade-offs and resource sinks and simplifies the interpretation of trait functions for the potential invasive success of plants.