, Volume 10, Issue 8, pp 1317-1325
Date: 11 Jan 2008

Genetic variation in photosynthetic characteristics among invasive and native populations of reed canarygrass (Phalaris arundinacea)

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Abstract

With the extensive spread of invasive species throughout North America and Europe there is an urgent need to better understand the morphological and physiological characteristics of successful invasive plants and the evolutionary mechanisms that allow introduced species to become invasive. Most ecological studies have focused on morphological differences and changes in community dynamics, and physiological studies have typically explored the differences between native and invasive species. In this study, 15 different genotypes of Phalaris arundinacea from both its native (European) and invasive (North American) range were grown in a common garden experiment to monitor the physiological differences between native and invasive genotypes. Here we present data that suggests high variability exists in the physiological traits among genotypes of P. arundinacea, yet genotypes from the native range are not necessarily physiologically inferior to the hybridized invasive genotypes. Previous work has shown that multiple introductions of P. arundinacea from various European locations to the United States resulted in numerous hybridization events, yielding more genetic variability and phenotypic plasticity in the invasive range. Of the genotypes studied, both morphological and physiological traits of genotypes with French origin were significantly different from the plants from the Czech Republic, North Carolina, and Vermont. The lack of clear differences between native and invasive genotypes indicates that physiological traits may be highly conserved in P. arundinacea and enhanced photosynthetic rates are not indicative of successful invasive genotypes. Instead, morphological traits and defensive secondary compound metabolism may play a more important role in the success of P. arundinacea within its invasive range, and patterns of genetic variation in physiological traits between invasive and native range may be more important than the mean traits of each region when explaining reed canarygrass’ invasive potential in North America.