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An invasive dandelion unilaterally reduces the reproduction of a native congener through competition for pollination

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Abstract

The impact of invasive alien species on native species is of increasing global concern. Invasive plants have various negative effects on natives through competition; however, relatively little is known about competition for pollination. The relationship between Japanese native dandelions (Taraxacum spp.) and invasive congeners may be a typical case of such an interaction. For example, native dandelions are being replaced by invasive congeners, especially in urban and suburban areas of Japan. To explain this phenomenon, we hypothesized that when natives are mixed with attractive invasives, natives may suffer from reduced seed set because invasives deprive natives of pollinators or because pollinators frequently move between species, resulting in interspecific pollen transfer. To test this hypothesis, we studied the effect of the invasive dandelion T. officinale on the pollination and seed set of the native T. japonicum using artificial arrays of monospecific and mixed-species plots as well as natural populations. Taraxacum officinale attracted more pollinator visits, perhaps because it produced more nectar than T. japonicum. The number of pollinator visits to T. japonicum was reduced when the congeners were grown together, and pollinators moved frequently between the two species. The proportion of seed set for T. japonicum was reduced in the presence of T. officinale in both artificial arrays and natural populations. These results support our hypothesis that interspecific competition for pollination plays an important role in the recent replacement of native dandelions by invasive congeners in Japan. Because invasive dandelions are apomicts, negative effects are incurred only by sexual natives. Thus, this system can be recognized as a rare case of interspecific interaction through pollination.

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Acknowledgements

We sincerely thank Drs. T. Sugimoto, Y. Sakuratani, and E. Yano for their valuable advice. We also thank T. Morita for analysing the DNA of putative T. officinale used in the study. This study was partly supported by a grant-in-aid for scientific research, no. 14740427, from the Japan Society for the Promotion of Science. All experiments complied with the current laws of Japan.

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Correspondence to Ikuo Kandori.

Additional information

Communicated by Jeff Conner.

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Kandori, I., Hirao, T., Matsunaga, S. et al. An invasive dandelion unilaterally reduces the reproduction of a native congener through competition for pollination. Oecologia 159, 559–569 (2009). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00442-008-1250-4

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Keywords

  • Dandelion Wars
  • Exploitation competition
  • Interference competition
  • Pollinator
  • Taraxacum japonicum
  • Taraxacum officinale