Physiological integration increases the survival and growth of the clonal invader Carpobrotus edulis
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- Roiloa, S.R., Rodríguez-Echeverría, S., de la Peña, E. et al. Biol Invasions (2010) 12: 1815. doi:10.1007/s10530-009-9592-3
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Clonal growth seems to be a common trait for many of the most aggressive invasive plant species. However, little research has been conducted to determine the role of clonality in the successful invasion of new areas by exotic species. Carpobrotus edulis (L.) N.E. Br. is a mat-forming succulent plant, native to South Africa that is invasive in coastal dunes of Australia, New Zealand, USA and Southern Europe. Although Carpobrotus edulis is a clonal plant, there is no information on the role of clonality for the invasion by this species, therefore the objective of this study was to test whether or not physiological integration improves the performance of C. edulis invading coastal sand dunes. To do that, a 6-month field experiment was designed in which the stolon connections between the apical ramets and the C. edulis mats were severed to prevent physiological integration. This treatment was applied to ramets growing under high and low competition with the native species. Apical ramets with intact stolon connections were used as control. Integration improved the survivorship and growth of apical ramets, both in high and low competition. Connected ramets showed a more pronounced increase of clonal growth (estimated as stolon length) during the experimental period and a higher total biomass and number of ramets at the completion of the experiment. In terms of survivorship, the benefit of integration was greater under high competition. Physiological integration can therefore be considered an important factor in the invasiveness of C. edulis, both in open space and in direct competition with the native plants.