A multi-species comparison of selective placement patterns of ramets in invasive alien and native clonal plants to light, soil nutrient and water heterogeneity.
A worth noticing pattern in current invasive biology is the clonal ability of many of the world's worst invasive plants. Selective placement of ramets (i.e. foraging behavior) can intensify ramet performance and allocation, and place more ramets in the more favorable microhabitats, which can maximum utilize resource and share risk in heterogeneous environments. Still little is known about whether invasive alien and native clonal plants differ in the selective placement patterns of ramets in invasive clonal plants or not. We used five congeneric pairs of naturally co-occurring invasive alien and native clonal plant species in China. In a glasshouse, we grew all species in pots under a homogeneous and three heterogeneous conditions (i.e. light, soil nutrients or water) subjected to resource-high or -low patches. All biomass parameters and number of ramets significantly increased in resource-high patches in all three types of heterogeneous environments. Interestingly, growth of invasive alien plants benefited significantly more from resource-high patches than native plants in all heterogeneous environments. Overall, invasive had higher biomass parameters per ramet than natives. Ramet parameters of invasive plants also benefited more from resource-low patches than natives. Three different selective placement patterns of ramets in resource-low patches were exhibited in invasive plants: ramet increasing shoot investment (above pattern), increasing root investment (below pattern) and increasing both investments (complete pattern) in the light, soil water and nutrient heterogeneity, respectively. Investment on less, larger ramet was the adaptive strategy of invasive plants in resource-poor patches. The results suggest that adaptively selective placement patterns of ramets promote a higher morphology plasticity and performance in invasive clonal plants over natives. When alien clonal plants spread new areas with light, soil nutrients or water heterogeneity, selective placement patterns of ramets might play an important role in plant performance and competitive superior by capitalizing more on additional resources.