Invasive Species Compendium

Detailed coverage of invasive species threatening livelihoods and the environment worldwide

Abstract

The dispersal-related traits of an invasive plant Galinsoga quadriradiata correlate with elevation during range expansion into mountain ranges.

Abstract

Detecting shifts in trait values among populations of an invasive plant is important for assessing invasion risks and predicting future spread. Although a growing number of studies suggest that the dispersal propensity of invasive plants increases during range expansion, there has been relatively little attention paid to dispersal patterns along elevational gradients. In this study, we tested the differentiation of dispersal-related traits in an invasive plant, Galinsoga quadriradiata, across populations at different elevations in the Qinling and Bashan Mountains in central China. Seed mass-area ratio (MAR), an important seed dispersal-related trait, of 45 populations from along an elevational gradient was measured, and genetic variation of 23 populations was quantified using inter-simple sequence repeat (ISSR) markers. Individuals from four populations were then planted in a greenhouse to compare their performance under shared conditions. Changing patterns of seed dispersal-related traits and populations genetic diversity along elevation were tested using linear regression. Mass-area ratio of G. quadriradiata increased, while genetic diversity decreased with elevation in the field survey. In the greenhouse, populations of G. quadriradiata sourced from different elevations showed a difference response of MAR. These results suggest that although rapid evolution may contribute to the range expansion of G. quadriradiata in mountain ranges, dispersal-related traits will also likely be affected by phenotypic plasticity. This challenges the common argument that dispersal ability of invasive plants increases along dispersal routes. Furthermore, our results suggest that high-altitude populations would be more effective at seed dispersal once they continue to expand their range downslope on the other side. Our experiment provides novel evidence that the spread of these high-altitude populations may be more likely than previously theorized and that they should thus be cautiously monitored.