Coexistence via coevolution driven by reduced allelochemical effects and increased tolerance to competition between invasive and native plants.
Coevolution can promote long-term coexistence of two competing species if selection acts to reduce the fitness inequality between competitors and/or strengthen negative frequency dependence within each population. However, clear coevolution between plant competitors has been rarely documented. Plant invasions offer opportunities to capture the process of coevolution. Here we investigated how the developing relationship between an invasive forb, Alliaria petiolata, and a native competitor, Pilea pumila, may affect their long-term coexistence, by testing the competitive effects of populations of varying lengths of co-occurrence on each other across a chronosequence of invasion history. Alliaria petiolata and P. pumila tended to develop greater tolerance to competition over invasion history. Their coexistence was promoted more by increases in stabilizing relative to equalizing processes. These changes likely stem in part from reductions in allelopathic traits in the invader and evolution of tolerance in the native. These results suggested that some native species can evolve tolerance against the competitive effects of strong invaders, which likely promoted their persistence in invaded communities. However, the potential for coevolutionary rescue of competing populations is likely to vary across native species, and evolutionary processes should not be expected to compensate for the ecological consequences of exotic invasions.