A Test for Pre-Adapted Phenotypic Plasticity in the Invasive Tree Acer negundo L.
Lamarque, Laurent J.
Porté, Annabel J.
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Phenotypic plasticity is a key mechanism associated with the spread of exotic plants and previous studies have found that invasive species are generally more plastic than co-occurring species. Comparatively, the evolution of phenotypic plasticity in plant invasion has received less attention, and in particular, the genetic basis of plasticity is largely unexamined. Native from North America, Acer negundo L. is aggressively impacting the riparian forests of southern and eastern Europe thanks to higher plasticity relative to co-occurring native species. We therefore tested here whether invasive populations have evolved increased plasticity since introduction. The performance of 1152 seedlings from 8 native and 8 invasive populations was compared in response to nutrient availability. Irrespective of nutrients, invasive populations had higher growth and greater allocation to above-ground biomass relative to their native conspecifics. More importantly, invasive genotypes did not show increased plasticity in any of the 20 traits examined. This result suggests that the high magnitude of plasticity to nutrient variation of invasive seedlings might be pre-adapted in the native range. Invasiveness of A. negundo could be explained by higher mean values of traits due to genetic differentiation rather than by evolution of increased plasticity.
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