, Volume 12, Issue 7, pp 2265-2275

Investment in seed dispersal structures is linked to invasiveness in exotic plant species of south-eastern Australia

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Abstract

Naturalized plant species disperse their populations over considerable distances to become invasive. We tested the hypothesis that this shift from naturalization to invasion is facilitated by increased investment of resources in seed dispersal appendages, using an assemblage of naturalized plants of south-eastern Australia. Compared with non-invasive species, we found in both cross-species and independent-contrasts analyses that invasive species invested more heavily in seed dispersal appendages, regardless of the structure present on the seed associated with the mode of dispersal (e.g., wings versus fleshy fruits). Invasive species such as Lonicera japonica, Hedera Helix and Acetosa sagittata were found to invest as much as 60–70% of total diaspore mass in dispersal appendages. The positive relationship between dispersal investment and invasion success was still prevalent after controlling for the effects of plant growth form, seed mass and capacity for vegetative growth. Our findings demonstrate that a plant’s investment in dispersal appendages helps to overcome the dispersal barrier in the shift from naturalization to invasion.