Contrasting functional responses of non-native invasive species along a tropical elevation gradient

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Abstract

One hypothesized invasion strategy (“try-harder”) predicts that invaders exhibit functional traits that are better adjusted to the environment than native species. Alternatively, the “join-the-locals” hypothesis predicts trait convergence between invasive and native species due to environmental filtering with increasing resource limitation. We hypothesized that invasions strategies shift from “try-harder” to “join-the-locals” with increasing elevation. We used an elevational gradient to detect possible trait convergences between alien invaders and native plant species in Asteraceae, Fabaceae and Poaceae. We found a significant trait convergence with elevation only in Asteraceae, suggesting a species-specific pattern, but also an important phenotypic variability of the alien invader. This supports the idea that the more resource-limited the environment, the more it filters out traits substantially diverging from the locally-adapted native community, thereby entailing a shift from “try-harder” to “join-the-locals” strategies. The invasive grass was also more acquisitive but did not exhibit any relation to the native community, supporting the “try-harder” hypothesis. The size of the invasive Fabaceae species decreased with elevation, mirroring the native Fabaceae species, but not the overall native community. Including more replicates and a thorough quantification of environmental conditions, offers a promising avenue for improving the understanding the seemingly idiosyncrasies of invasion pathways.

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Gillerot, L., Negreiros, D., Barbosa, N. P. U., Silveira, F. A. O., & de Paula, L. F. A. (2022). Contrasting functional responses of non-native invasive species along a tropical elevation gradient. Acta Botanica Brasilica, 35(4), 683–688. https://doi.org/10.1590/0102-33062021abb0017

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