Plastic biomass allocation as a trait increasing the invasiveness of annual bluegrass (Poa annua L.) in Antarctica.
The plasticity of functional traits promotes invasiveness of a species. Biomass allocation, as one of these traits, is responsible for resource acquisition, and its plastic modifications can be of adaptive value in new environments before any genetic adaptations may occur. Our aim was to compare in situ biomass allocation in aboveground and belowground organs in an Antarctic and a Polish population of annual bluegrass (Poa annua), the only alien plant species successfully invading Antarctica. The Antarctic population was characterised by three times lower aboveground biomass, more compact plant growth habit and higher fraction of biomass allocated into belowground organs than in the Polish population. The differences between populations are probably a result of adaptation to local conditions. The modifications of the studied traits in the Antarctic population are most likely a response to extreme atmospheric and edaphic conditions and enable the species to survive and spread in this hostile environment. Our results are in accordance with the balanced growth hypothesis. At the same time, these trait values enhance species performance under Antarctic conditions making P. annua a potential threat to local plant communities under altering climate changes and growing human impact scenario.