Plant reproductive systems and evolution during biological invasion


S. C. H. Barrett, Fax: 1-416-978-5878; E-mail:


Recent biological invasions provide opportunities to investigate microevolution during contemporary timescales. The tempo and scope of local adaptation will be determined by the intensity of natural selection and the amounts and kinds of genetic variation within populations. In flowering plants, genetic diversity is strongly affected by interactions between reproductive systems and stochastic forces associated with immigration history and range expansion. Here, we explore the significance of reproductive system diversity for contemporary evolution during plant invasion. We focus in particular on how reproductive modes influence the genetic consequences of long-distance colonization and determine the likelihood of adaptive responses during invasion. In many clonal invaders, strong founder effects and restrictions on sexual reproduction limit opportunities for local adaptation. In contrast, adaptive changes to life-history traits should be a general expectation in both outbreeding and inbreeding species. We provide evidence that evolutionary modifications to reproductive systems promote the colonizing ability of invading populations and that reproductive timing is an important target of selection during range expansion. Knowledge of the likelihood and speed at which local adaptation evolves in invasive plants will be particularly important for management practices when evolutionary changes enhance ecological opportunities and invasive spread.