• local interstellar matter;
  • galaxies: abundances;
  • galaxies: evolution;
  • galaxies: star clusters: general


The initial mass function determines the fraction of stars of different initial mass born per stellar generation. In this paper, we test the effects of the integrated galactic initial mass function (IGIMF) on the chemical evolution of the solar neighbourhood. The IGIMF (Weidner & Kroupa 2005) is computed from the combination of the stellar initial mass function (IMF), i.e. the mass function of single star clusters, and the embedded cluster mass function, i.e. a power law with index β. By taking into account also the fact that the maximum achievable stellar mass is a function of the total mass of the cluster, the IGIMF becomes a time-varying IMF which depends on the star formation rate. We applied this formalism to a chemical evolution model for the solar neighbourhood and compared the results obtained by assuming three possible values for β with the results obtained by means of a standard, well-tested, constant IMF. In general, a lower absolute value of β implies a flatter IGIMF, hence a larger number of massive stars and larger metal ejection rates. This translates into higher type Ia and II supernova rates, higher mass ejection rates from massive stars and a larger amount of gas available for star formation, coupled with lower present-day stellar mass densities. Lower values of β correspond also to higher metallicities and higher [α/Fe] values at a given metallicity. We consider a large set of chemical evolution observables and test which value of β provides the best match to all of these constraints. We also discuss the importance of the present-day stellar mass function (PDMF) in providing a way to disentangle among various assumptions for β. Our results indicate that the model adopting the IGIMF computed with β≃ 2 should be considered the best since it allows us to reproduce the observed PDMF and to account for most of the chemical evolution constraints considered in this work.