Purple loosestrife in full bloom at the experimental plots at the University of Toronto’s Koffler Scientific Reserve. (Photo by: Spencer Barrett)
Colautti, R.I. & Barrett S.C.H. (2013). Rapid adaptation to climate facilitates range expansion of an invasive plant. Science 342(6156):364-366. doi:10.1126/science.1242121
Adaptation to climate, evolving over contemporary time scales, could facilitate rapid range expansion across environmental gradients. Here, we examine local adaptation along a climatic gradient in the North American invasive plant Lythrum salicaria
. We show that the evolution of earlier flowering is adaptive at the northern invasion front where it increases fitness as much as, or more than, the effects of enemy release and the evolution of increased competitive ability. However, early flowering decreases investment in vegetative growth, which reduces fitness by a factor of 3 in southern environments where the North American invasion commenced. Our results demonstrate that local adaptation can evolve quickly during range expansion, overcoming environmental constraints on propagule production.
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