The effect of stolon fragmentation on the colonization of clonal invasive Carpobrotus edulis in a coastal dune system: a field test.
Disturbances usually initiate processes of fragmentation in clonal plants, with the consequent division into portions of different size. The ability of these portions to survive and regrow after fragmentation plays an important role in the maintenance of populations and the colonization of new environments. In this field experiment we aim to determine the importance of stolons as reserve organs in the colonization of a coastal sand dune by a clonal invader. We simulated an event of fragmentation of clones of an aggressive invader into portions with short and long stolon sizes. Our results showed a reduction of biomass allocation to roots in the long stolon treatment that was balanced by an increase in the above-ground growth; consequently, the area colonized by the invader was greater. We report evidence that stolons can contribute to buffering stressful conditions and allow expansion of the invader into a natural coastal sand dune.