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Polyploidy and high environmental tolerance increase the invasive success of plants

Abstract

Ploidy level and genome size (GS) could affect the invasive capacity of plants, although these parameters can be contradictory. While small GS seems to favor dispersion, polyploidy—which increases the GS—also seems to favor it. Using a phylogenetic path analysis, we evaluated the effects of both factors on the environmental tolerance and invasive success of plants. We selected 99 invasive plant species from public online databases and gathered information about invasive capacity (number of non-original countries in which each species occurs), tolerance to environmental factors, ploidy level, and GS. The invasive capacity varied depending on the ploidy level and tolerance to environmental factors. Polyploids and species with increased tolerance to elevated temperatures and rainfall values exhibited high invasive capacity. We found no evidence that GS affects the invasive capacity of plants. We suggest that the genetic variability provided by polyploidization has a positive impact on plant competitiveness, which may ultimately lead to an increased ability to colonize new environments. In a global warming scenario, integrative approaches using phenotypic, genetic, epigenetic, and ecological traits should be a productive route to unveil the aspects of invasive plants.

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Acknowledgements

This study was conceived during the course Fundamentos e Fronteiras em Biologia da Polinização carried out at Uberlândia/Brazil in 2017. We thank the course staff and colleagues for the opportunity and rich discussions, especially the colleague Brayan Paiva Cavalcante. We also thank two anonymous reviewers for helpful suggestions that significantly improved the quality of this manuscript. RFM, DQ, and EV thank the Coordenação de Aperfeiçoamento de Pessoal de Nível Superior (CAPES), Code 001, for financial support. RFM thanks the University of Missouri-St. Louis and the Missouri Botanical Garden for providing facilities during the development of this manuscript.

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Moura, R.F., Queiroga, D., Vilela, E. et al. Polyploidy and high environmental tolerance increase the invasive success of plants. J Plant Res 134, 105–114 (2021). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10265-020-01236-6

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Keywords

  • Abiotic factors
  • Alien species
  • Climate change
  • Ecological tradeoff
  • Invasiveness
  • Polyploidy