Flowering phenology of invasive alien plant species compared with native species in three Mediterranean-type ecosystems
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Background and Aims Flowering phenology is a potentially important component of success of alien species, since elevated fecundity may enhance invasiveness. The flowering patterns of invasive alien plant species and related natives were studied in three regions with Mediterranean-type climate: California, Spain and South Africa’s Cape region. Methods A total of 227 invasive–native pairs were compared for seven character types across the regions, with each pair selected on the basis that they shared the same habitat type within a region, had a common growth form and pollination type, and belonged to the same family or genus. Key Results Invasive alien plant species have different patterns of flowering phenology from native species in the three regions. Whether the alien species flower earlier, later or at the same time as natives depends on the climatic regime in the native range of the aliens and the proportion of species in the invasive floras originating from different regions. Species invading at least two of the regions displayed the same flowering pattern, showing that flowering phenology is a conservative trait. Invasive species with native ranges in temperate climates flower earlier than natives, those from Mediterranean-type climates at the same time, and species from tropical climates flower later. In California, where the proportion of invaders from the Mediterranean Basin is high, the flowering pattern did not differ between invasive and native species, whereas in Spain the high proportion of tropical species results in a later flowering than natives, and in the Cape region early flowering than natives was the result of a high proportion of temperate invaders. Conclusions Observed patterns are due to the human-induced sympatry of species with different evolutionary histories whose flowering phenology evolved under different climatic regimes. The severity of the main abiotic filters imposed by the invaded regions (e.g. summer drought) has not been strong enough (yet) to shift the flowering pattern of invasive species to correspond with that of native relatives. It does, however, determine the length of the flowering season and the type of habitat invaded by summer-flowering aliens. Results suggest different implications for impacts at evolutionary time scales among the three regions.
- RESEARCH: Richardson D