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Physiological ecology and functional traits of North American native and Eurasian introduced Phragmites australis lineages.
Mozdzer, Thomas J.; Brisson, Jacques; Hazelton, Eric L. G.
Physiological ecology and plant functional traits are often used to explain plant invasion. To gain a better understanding of how traits influence invasion, studies usually compare the invasive plant to a native congener, but there are few conspecific examples in the literature. In North America, the presence of native and introduced genetic lineages of the common reed, Phragmites australis, presents a unique example to evaluate how traits influence plant invasion. We reviewed the literature on functional traits of P. australis lineages in North America, specifically contrasting lineages present on the Atlantic Coast. We focused on differences in physiology between the lineage introduced from Eurasia and the lineage native to North America, specifically seeking to identify the causes underlying the recent expansion of the introduced lineage. Our goals were to better understand which traits may confer invasiveness, provide predictions of how these lineages may respond to interspecific competition or imminent global change, and provide guidance for future research. We reviewed published studies and articles in press, and conducted personal communications with appropriate researchers and managers to develop a comparative dataset. We compared the native and introduced lineages and focused on plant physiological ecology and functional traits. Under both stressful and favourable conditions, our review showed that introduced P. australis consistently exhibited greater ramet density, height and biomass, higher and more plastic relative growth rate, nitrogen productivity and specific leaf area, higher mass specific nitrogen uptake rates, as well as greater phenotypic plasticity compared with the native lineage. We suggest that eco-physiological and other plant functional traits elucidate potential-mechanisms for the introduced lineage's invasiveness under current and predicted global change conditions. However, our review identified a disconnect between field surveys, experiments, natural competition and plant ecophysiology that must be addressed in future field studies. Given the likelihood of hybridization between lineages, a better understanding of plant traits in native, non-native and hybrid lineages is needed to manage current invasions and to predict the outcome of interactions among novel genotypes. Comparative physiology and other plant functional traits may provide additional tools to predict the trajectory of current and potential future invasions.
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