Morphological and physiological traits in the success of the invasive plant Lespedeza cuneata
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To better understand the strategies and mechanisms of invading plants in tallgrass prairie, physiological and morphological characteristics of the invasive Lespedeza cuneata were compared to the dominant and abundant natives Ambrosia psilostachya and Andropogon gerardii. Gas exchange, chlorophyll fluorescence, plant water status, and total and specific leaf area were quantified in the field for each species both throughout daily sampling periods and across the growing season. Total and specific leaf area (cm2 g−1 of leaves) exceeded that of native species and may allow L. cuneata to successfully establish and dominate in tallgrass prairie, aiding in both resource acquisition and competitive exclusion. Gas exchange traits (e.g. net photosynthesis, stomatal conductance, and water use efficiency) of L. cuneata did not exceed other species, but remained constant throughout the daily sampling periods. The daily consistency of net photosynthesis and other gas exchange traits for L. cuneata reveal characteristics of stress tolerance. The combination of these characteristics and strategies may assist in the invasion of L. cuneata and also provide insight into general mechanisms responsible for successful invasions into tallgrass prairie.
KeywordsCompetition Tolerance Sericea lespedeza Leaf area Photosynthesis Invasion Tallgrass prairie
We thank Jonathan Kelly and Chris Stansberry for field work assistance and logistical support. We also thank two anonymous reviewers for suggestions that improved this manuscript. B. Allred thanks A. Allred for support and encouragement. This research was supported by the Oklahoma Agricultural Experiment Station and the National Research Initiative of the U.S. Department of Agriculture Cooperative State Research, Education and Extension Service, grant numbers 2003-35101-12928 and 2006-35320-17476.
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