Mahonia invasions in different habitats: local adaptation or general-purpose genotypes?


Rapid evolutionary adaptations and phenotypic plasticity have been suggested to be two important, but not mutually exclusive, mechanisms contributing to the spread of invasive species. Adaptive evolution in invasive plants has been shown to occur at large spatial scales to different climatic regions, but local adaptation at a smaller scale, e.g. to different habitats within a region, has rarely been studied. Therefore, we performed a case study on invasive Mahonia populations to investigate whether local adaptation may have contributed to their spread. We hypothesised that the invasion success of these populations is promoted by adaptive differentiation in response to local environmental conditions, in particular to the different soils in these habitats. To test this hypothesis, we carried out a reciprocal transplantation experiment in the field using seedlings from five Mahonia populations in Germany that are representative for the range of habitats invaded, and a greenhouse experiment that specifically compared the responses to the different soils of these habitats. We found no evidence for local adaptation of invasive Mahonia populations because seedlings from all populations responded similarly to different habitats and soils. In a second greenhouse experiment we examined genetic variation within populations, but seedlings from different maternal families did not vary in their responses to soil conditions. We therefore suggest that local adaptation of seedlings does not play a major role for the invasion success of Mahonia populations and that phenotypic plasticity, instead, could be an important trait in this stage of the life cycle.


Soil Moisture Local Adaptation Phenotypic Plasticity Greenhouse Experiment Soil Chemical Property 
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