Evolution of an invasive phenotype: Shift to belowground dominance and enhanced competitive ability in the introduced range

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In response to novel selection pressures in an introduced range, non-native species may evolve more competitive phenotypes unique from those of their native range. We examined the existence of an invasive phenotype in the herbaceous perennial Artemisia vulgaris, a frequent invader of the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic US. Populations from both the native (European) and the introduced (North American) ranges were grown in intra-specific competition (same population), inter-specific competition with the native perennial herb Solidago canadensis, and alone in a common garden to quantify shifts in resource allocation and neighbor effects on performance and competitive ability. Without competition, introduced A. vulgaris populations were much shorter than native populations, but germinated earlier, produced more ramets, more belowground and total biomass, and maintained higher root-to-shoot ratios. Under inter- and intra-specific competitions, introduced A. vulgaris populations were shorter, but produced more ramets, belowground, and total biomass than native populations. S. canadensis belowground and total biomass were more highly suppressed by introduced than native A. vulgaris. Our data suggest that since the introduction to North America, A. vulgaris has evolved a more competitive invasive phenotype characterized by many short ramets with more extensive root/rhizome networks. This rapid evolutionary shift likely benefits A. vulgaris in its introduced range by allowing establishment and subsequent dominance in dense stands of existing vegetation.

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