Chromolaena odorata is one of the worst terrestrial invasive plants in tropical and subtropical areas. Stronger adaptation to various light environments is thought to be important for its successful invasion. Rapid adaptive evolution might contribute to this adaptive ability.
Researchers from Xishuangbanna Tropical Botanical Garden (XTBG) hypothesized that C. odorataplants from introduced populations have higher performance and plasticity than their conspecifics from native populations under various light environments.
The researchers grew C. odorata from five introduced and five native populations under three light intensities (i.e. low, medium and full light). They then compared growth and functional traits related to light capture and utilization ability between introduced and native C. odorata.
They found that genetical differentiation occurred in both trait mean values and in plasticity of traits in C. odorata.
Compared to native populations, introduced populations of C. odorata had lower RTSR (root to shoot ratio) across all light environments, grew taller under medium and full light conditions, and had lower leaf N under medium light.
A shift in biomass allocation from belowground into aboveground occurred in invasive C. odorata. Introduced C. odorata populations were also more plastic than native populations in response to light treatments.
“Frequent disturbance events in the introduced range might have caused the evolution of this biomass reallocation and higher plasticity of introduced C. odorata, which may have contributed to the successful invasion of C. odorata”, said ZHENG Yulong, principal investigator of the study.
The study entitled “Biomass reallocation and increased plasticity might contribute to successful invasion of Chromolaena odorata” has been published in Flora.
ZHENG Yulong Ph.D Principal Investigator
Key Laboratory of Tropical Forest Ecology, Xishuangbanna Tropical Botanical Garden, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Mengla, Yunnan 666303, China