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Ecology. 2009 Mar;90(3):612-22.

Establishment of parallel altitudinal dines in traits of native and introduced forbs.

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Institute of Integrative Biology, ETH Zürich, Universitätsstrasse 16, ETH Zentrum CHN, 8092 Zürich, Switzerland.


Due to altered ecological and evolutionary contexts, we might expect the responses of alien plants to environmental gradients, as revealed through patterns of trait variation, to differ from those of the same species in their native range. In particular, the spread of alien plant species along such gradients might be limited by their ability to establish clinal patterns of trait variation. We investigated trends in growth and reproductive traits in natural populations of eight invasive Asteraceae forbs along altitudinal gradients in their native and introduced ranges (Valais, Switzerland, and Wallowa Mountains, Oregon, USA). Plants showed similar responses to altitude in both ranges, being generally smaller and having fewer inflorescences but larger seeds at higher altitudes. However, these trends were modified by region-specific effects that were independent of species status (native or introduced), suggesting that any differential performance of alien species in the introduced range cannot be interpreted without a fully reciprocal approach to test the basis of these differences. Furthermore, we found differences in patterns of resource allocation to capitula among species in the native and the introduced areas. These suggest that the mechanisms underlying trait variation, for example, increasing seed size with altitude, might differ between ranges. The rapid establishment of clinal patterns of trait variation in the new range indicates that the need to respond to altitudinal gradients, possibly by local adaptation, has not limited the ability of these species to invade mountain regions. Studies are now needed to test the underlying mechanisms of altitudinal clines in traits of alien species.

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