Invasive species are a miracle. They often outperform native species in their novel range despite having evolved elsewhere. Theories trying to explain invasion success in plants have focused on two non-exclusive mechanisms: changes in biotic interactions and rapid evolutionary change. Therefore, invasive species provide an ideal playground for studying real-time evolution. However, invasion biology has not yet combined the toolboxes of community ecologists and of evolutionary biologists to investigate whether plants have evolved during invasion, and whether this infers a fitness advantage when exposed to various types of biotic interactions. Here, we present a comprehensive approach to studying such rapid evolution in two model invasive plant species by using plants both from the native and the invasive range and exposing them to various types of biotic interactions - herbivory, competition and allelopathy. Our findings provide new insights into mechanisms of plant invasion through rapid evolution while at the same time confirming the paradigm that future invasions remain difficult to predict.
Invited by Stephan Clemens, Plant Physiology
Absolventenfeier Geoökologie 2018/19