Aspects of invasiveness of Ludwigia and Nelumbo in shallow temperate fluvial lakes.
The relationship between invasive plant functional traits and their invasiveness is still the subject of scientific investigation, and the backgrounds of transition from non-native to invasive species in ecosystems are therefore poorly understood. Furthermore, our current knowledge on species invasiveness is heavily biased toward terrestrial species; we know much less about the influence of allochthonous plant traits on their invasiveness in aquatic ecosystems. In this paper, we present the results of a study on physiological and ecological traits of two introduced and three native macrophyte species in the Mantua lakes system (northern Italy). We compared their photophysiology, pigment content, leaf reflectance, and phenology in order to assess how the invasive Nelumbo nucifera and Ludwigia hexapetala perform compared to native species, Nuphar lutea, Nymphaea alba, and Trapa natans. We found L. hexapetala to have higher photosynthetic efficiency and to tolerate higher light intensities than N. nucifera and the native species especially at extreme weather conditions (prolonged exposure to high light and higher temperatures). Chlorophyll a and b, and carotenoids content of both allochthonous species were substantially higher than those of native plants, suggesting adaptive response to the ecosystem of Mantua lakes system. Higher variability of recorded data in invasive species was also observed. These observations suggest advanced photosynthetic efficiency of the invasive species, especially L. hexapetala, resulting in faster growth rates and higher productivity. This was supported by the evaluation of seasonal dynamics mapped from satellite remote sensing data. This study provides empirical evidence for the relationship between specific plant physiological traits and invasiveness of aquatic plant species, highlighting the importance of trait studies in predicting ecosystem-level impacts of invasive plant species.