Seasonal variation in selected biochemical traits in the leaves of co-occurring invasive and native plant species under Mediterranean conditions.
The success of invasive alien species (IAS) is often linked to differences in functional traits in relation to other, either native or non-invasive, species. Two of the most problematic IAS in the Mediterranean area belong to Hakea and Acacia genera that often invade pine plantations. Therefore, the aim of this study was to assess the seasonal variations in photosynthetic pigments, total phenolics, and non-structural carbohydrates (NSC), including total soluble sugars (SS) and starch (St), and lipid peroxidation, in terms of malondialdehyde (MDA) in the leaves of evergreen species, two IAS (Hakea sericea and Acacia melanoxylon) and one native (Pinus pinaster), throughout 2019. All parameters showed a pronounced seasonal variability while also differing across species. Generally, the lowest contents of photosynthetic pigments, phenolics and SS were noted in early spring, along with the highest St and NSC values. On the other hand, higher photosynthetic pigment and lower NSC contents were measured in early autumn and early winter. When these parameters were compared across the three species, the IAS had significantly higher content of photosynthetic pigments, mainly chlorophyll b and total chlorophyll, and lower total phenolics and MDA concentrations in their leaves than Pinus pinaster. Differences in seasonal patterns were also observed. Hakea sericea and Acacia melanoxylon had considerably higher chlorophyll, SS and NSC contents in the early autumn, while Pinus pinaster had higher St and MDA contents in early summer. Overall, the biochemical characteristics of leaves of the studied IAS can explain their success in the Mediterranean area, in terms of tolerance to stressful environmental conditions.