A comprehensive test of evolutionarily increased competitive ability in a highly invasive plant species

Srijana Joshi, Michal Gruntman, Mark Bilton, Merav Seifan, Katja Tielbörger

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

25 Scopus citations


Background and Aims A common hypothesis to explain plants' invasive success is that release from natural enemies in the introduced range selects for reduced allocation to resistance traits and a subsequent increase in resources available for growth and competitive ability (evolution of increased competitive ability, EICA). However, studies that have investigated this hypothesis have been incomplete as they either did not test for all aspects of competitive ability or did not select appropriate competitors. Methods Here, the prediction of increased competitive ability was examined with the invasive plant Lythrum salicaria (purple loosestrife) in a set of common-garden experiments that addressed these aspects by carefully distinguishing between competitive effect and response of invasive and native plants, and by using both intraspecific and interspecific competition settings with a highly vigorous neighbour, Urtica dioica (stinging nettle), which occurs in both ranges. Key Results While the intraspecific competition results showed no differences in competitive effect or response between native and invasive plants, the interspecific competition experiment revealed greater competitive response and effect of invasive plants in both biomass and seed production. Conclusions The use of both intra-and interspecific competition experiments in this study revealed opposing results. While the first experiment refutes the EICA hypothesis, the second shows strong support for it, suggesting evolutionarily increased competitive ability in invasive populations of L. salicaria. It is suggested that the use of naturally co-occurring heterospecifics, rather than conspecifics, may provide a better evaluation of the possible evolutionary shift towards greater competitive ability.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1761-1768
Number of pages8
JournalAnnals of Botany
Issue number8
StatePublished - 1 Dec 2014


  • Competitive effect
  • Competitive response
  • EICA
  • Evolution of increased competitive ability
  • Interspecific competition
  • Intraspecific competition
  • Invasive species
  • Lythrum salicaria
  • Purple loosestrife
  • Stinging nettle
  • Urtica dioica

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Plant Science


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