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Populations of a widespread invader and co-occurring native species vary in phenotypic plasticity

Citation

Hiatt, Drew; Flory, Luke (2019), Populations of a widespread invader and co-occurring native species vary in phenotypic plasticity, Dryad, Dataset, https://doi.org/10.5061/dryad.5qfttdz11

Abstract

Phenotypic plasticity can promote plant invasions and enhance impacts on native species but little is known about variation in plasticity among invader populations compared to native species. Variation in plasticity among invader populations could inform more precise predictions of invader spread and impacts across heterogeneous resource environments.

 We used a common garden experiment with sun and shade treatments to test for variation in plasticity among 12 populations of an invasive grass, and to determine if the invader exhibited greater plasticity than six native species that co-occur in the Southeast US.

Principal component analysis revealed that invader populations from different native ranges consistently varied from each other and native species in traits linked to more favorable phenotypes under resource limitation. Overall, the invader exhibited greater plasticity than native species, as demonstrated by higher plasticity index values for traits such as plant height, leaf mass ratio, and root shoot ratio.

Variation in phenotypic plasticity among invader populations suggests the potential for evolution of plasticity, and greater plasticity of invader populations than native species may underlie invader dominance. Differences in plasticity among populations appears to play an important role in predictions of the spread and potentially the impacts of invasive species.