Potential for higher invasiveness of the alien Oxalis pes-caprae on islands than on the mainland
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The higher vulnerability of islands to invasions compared to mainland areas has been partially attributed to a simplification of island communities, with lower levels of natural enemies and competitors on islands conferring vacant niches for invaders to establish and proliferate. However, differences in invader life-history traits between populations have received less attention. We conducted a broad geographical analysis (i.e. 1050 km wide transect) of plant traits comparing insular and mainland populations to test the hypothesis that alien plants from insular populations have the potential for higher invasiveness than their alien mainland counterparts. For this purpose plants of the annual geophyte Oxalis pes-caprae were grown from bulbs collected in the Balearic islands and the Spanish mainland under common greenhouse conditions. There were no significant differences in bulb emergence and plant survival between descendants from insular and mainland populations. However, Oxalis descendants from insular populations produced 20% more bulbs without reducing allocation to bulb size, above-ground biomass or flowering than descendants from mainland populations. Based on the lack of sexual reproduction in Oxalis and the dependence of invasion on bulb production, our study suggests that the higher occurrence of Oxalis in the Balearic islands than in the Spanish mainland can partially be explained by genetically based higher propagation potential of insular populations compared to mainland populations.
KeywordsBermuda butter-cup (soursob) Genetic differentiation Invasibility Life-history evolution Plant invasion
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