Invasive Species Compendium

Detailed coverage of invasive species threatening livelihoods and the environment worldwide

Abstract

Variation in phenology and overall performance traits can help to explain the plant invasion process amongst Mediterranean ecosystems.

Abstract

Plant traits such as phenological development, growth rate, stress tolerance and seeds production may play an important role in the process of acclimatisation to new environments for introduced plants. Experiments that distinguish phenotypic plasticity from ecotypic differentiation would allow an understanding of the role of plant traits in the invasion process. We quantified the variation in phenological and overall performance traits associated with the invasion process for three herbaceous species native to Spain and invasive to Chile (Trifolium glomeratum, Hypochaeris glabra and Leontodon saxatilis). We grew plants from native and exotic populations along rainfall gradients in outdoor common gardens, located in the native and the introduced ranges and measured plant survival, phenology (days to flowering), biomass and seed output. Days to flowering was positively correlated with precipitation of the origin population for T. glomeratum and the native populations of H. glabra, but this pattern was not adaptive, as it was not associated with an increase in performance traits of these species. Phenology may instead reflect ecotypic differentiation to the environmental conditions of the original populations. Comparison between ranges (i.e. performance in both common gardens) was only possible for L. saxatilis. This species showed little variation in phenology and both native and exotic populations had higher fitness in the introduced range. This suggests that plasticity enhances invasiveness through increased propagule pressure in the novel environment. Our findings highlight the utility of common garden experiments in examining patterns of phenological and performance traits that relate to species invasiveness.