Biological Invasions

, Volume 18, Issue 9, pp 2531–2549 | Cite as

Do ploidy level and nuclear genome size and latitude of origin modify the expression of Phragmites australis traits and interactions with herbivores?

  • Laura A. Meyerson
  • James T. Cronin
  • Ganesh P. Bhattarai
  • Hans Brix
  • Carla Lambertini
  • Magdalena Lučanová
  • Shelby Rinehart
  • Jan Suda
  • Petr Pyšek


We studied the relationship between genome size and ploidy level variation and plant traits for the reed grass Phragmites australis. Using a common garden approach on a global collection of populations in Aarhus, Denmark, we investigated the influence of monoploid genome size and ploidy level on the expression of P. australis growth, nutrition and herbivore-defense traits and whether monoploid genome size and ploidy level play different roles in plant trait expression. We found that both monoploid genome size and latitude of origin contributed to variation in traits that we studied for P. australis, with latitude of origin being generally a better predictor of trait values and that ploidy level and its interaction with monoploid genome size and latitude of origin also contributed to trait variation. We also found that for four traits, tetraploids and octoploids had different relationships with the monoploid genome size. While for tetraploids stem height and leaf water content showed a positive relationship with monoploid genome size, octoploids had a negative relationship with monoploid genome size for stem height and no relationship for leaf water content. As genome size within octoploids increased, the number of aphids colonizing leaves decreased, whereas for tetraploids there was a quadratic, though non-significant, relationship. Generally we found that tetraploids were taller, chemically better defended, had a greater number of stems, higher leaf water content, and supported more aphids than octoploids. Our results suggest trade-offs among plant traits mediated by genome size and ploidy with respect to fitness and defense. We also found that the latitude of plant origin is a significant determinant of trait expression suggesting local adaptation. Global climate change may favor some genome size and ploidy variants that can tolerate stressful environments due to greater phenotypic plasticity and to fitness traits that vary with cytotype which may lead to changes in population genome sizes and/or ploidy structure, particularly at species’ range limits.


Cytotype Global climate change Latitude of origin Nuclear genome size Plant defense Plant invasion Polyploidy 



The research was funded by NSF research grant 1049914 and 1050084 to JTC and LAM; S Rinehart was funded by an NSF REU to LAM. PP, JS and ML were supported by long-term research development project RVO 67985939 (The Czech Academy of Sciences), and project no. 14-15414S (Czech Science Foundation). Additional funding to LAM was provided by the US Fulbright Commission and the University of Rhode Island College of Environment and Life Sciences Agricultural Experiment Station Project RI00H-332, 311000-6044. PP acknowledges support by Praemium Academiae award from The Czech Academy of Sciences.


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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing Switzerland 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  • Laura A. Meyerson
    • 1
  • James T. Cronin
    • 2
  • Ganesh P. Bhattarai
    • 2
    • 3
  • Hans Brix
    • 4
  • Carla Lambertini
    • 4
  • Magdalena Lučanová
    • 5
    • 8
  • Shelby Rinehart
    • 1
    • 6
    • 7
  • Jan Suda
    • 5
    • 8
  • Petr Pyšek
    • 5
    • 9
  1. 1.The University of Rhode IslandKingstonUSA
  2. 2.Louisiana State UniversityBaton RougeUSA
  3. 3.Indian River Research and Education CenterUniversity of FloridaFort PierceUSA
  4. 4.Department of Bioscience, Plant BiologyAarhus UniversityAarhus CDenmark
  5. 5.Institute of BotanyThe Czech Academy of SciencesPrůhoniceCzech Republic
  6. 6.Department of BiologySan Diego State UniversitySan DiegoUSA
  7. 7.Department of Evolution and EcologyUniversity of California, DavisDavisUSA
  8. 8.Department of Botany, Faculty of ScienceCharles University in PraguePragueCzech Republic
  9. 9.Department of Ecology, Faculty of ScienceCharles University in PraguePragueCzech Republic

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