A test of native plant adaptation more than one century after introduction of the invasive Carpobrotus edulis to the NW Iberian Peninsula.
Background: Although the immediate consequences of biological invasions on ecosystems and conservation have been widely studied, the long-term effects remain unclear. Invaders can either cause the extinction of native species or become integrated in the new ecosystems, thus increasing the diversity of these ecosystems and the services that they provide. The final balance of invasions will depend on how the invaders and native plants co-evolve. For a better understanding of such co-evolution, case studies that consider the changes that occur in both invasive and native species long after the introduction of the invader are especially valuable. In this work, we studied the ecological consequences of the more than one century old invasion of NW Iberia by the African plant Carpobrotus edulis. We conducted a common garden experiment to compare the reciprocal effects of competition between Carpobrotus plants from the invaded area or from the native African range and two native Iberian plant species (Artemisia crithmifolia and Helichrysum picardii) from populations exposed or unexposed to the invader. Results: Exposure of H. picardii populations to C. edulis increased their capacity to repress the growth of Carpobrotus. The repression specifically affected the Carpobrotus from the invader populations, not those from the African native area. No effects of exposition were detected in the case of A. crithmifolia. C. edulis plants from the invader populations had higher growth than plants from the species' African area of origin. Conclusions: We found that adaptive responses of natives to invaders can occur in the long term, but we only found evidence for adaptive responses in one of the two species studied. This might be explained by known differences between the two species in the structure of genetic variance and gene flow between subpopulations. The overall changes observed in the invader Carpobrotus are consistent with adaptation after invasion.