Germination responses of an invasive species in native and non-native ranges


  • José L. Hierro,

  • Özkan Eren,

  • Liana Khetsuriani,

  • Alecu Diaconu,

  • Katalin Török,

  • Daniel Montesinos,

  • Krikor Andonian,

  • David Kikodze,

  • Levan Janoian,

  • Diego Villarreal,

  • María E. Estanga-Mollica,

  • Ragan M. Callaway

J. L. Hierro ( and R. M. Callaway, Div. of Biological Sciences, The Univ. of Montana, Missoula, MT 59812, USA. JLH also at: INCITAP-CONICET and Facultad de Ciencias Exactas y Naturales, Universidad Nacional de La Pamba, AR–6300 Santa Rosa Argentina – D. Villarreal and M. E. Estanga-Mollica, Facultad de Ciencias Exactas y Naturales, Univ. Nacional de La Pampa, AR–6300 Santa Rosa, Argentina. –Ö. Eren, Adnan Menderes Üniv., Fen-Edebiyat Fakültesi, Biyoloji Bölümü, TR–09010, Aydin, Turkey. – L. Khetsuriani and D. Kikodze, Inst. of Botany of the Georgian Academy of Sciences, 380007 T'bilisi, Georgia. – A. Diaconu, Inst. of Biological Research, Biological Control Laboratory, RO–700107 Iasi, Romania. – K. Török, Inst. of Ecology and Botany of HAS, HU–2163 Vácrátót, Hungary. – D. Montesinos, Centro de Investigaciones sobre Desertificación, ES-46470 Albal, Spain. – K. Andonian, Ecology and Evolutionary Biology Dept, Univ. of California, Santa Cruz, CA 95064, USA. – L. Janoian, Environmental Conservation and Research Center, American Univ. of Armenia, Yerevan, Armenia.


Studying germination in the native and non-native range of a species can provide unique insights into processes of range expansion and adaptation; however, traits related to germination have rarely been compared between native and non-native populations. In a series of common garden experiments, we explored whether differences in the seasonality of precipitation, specifically, summer drought vs summer rain, and the amount and variation of annual and seasonal precipitation affect the germination responses of populations of an annual ruderal plant, Centaurea solstitialis, from its native range and from two non-native regions with different climates. We found that seeds from all native populations, irrespective of the precipitation seasonality of the region in which they occurred, and non-native populations from regions with dry summers displayed similarly high germination proportions and rates. In contrast, genotypes from the non-native region with predominantly summer rain exhibited much lower germination fractions and rates. Also, percent germination was strongly correlated with variation in precipitation in winter, the season that follows germination for C. solstitialis. Specifically, germination was lower for native and non-native populations experiencing greater variation in winter precipitation. This correlation, however, was greatly influenced by the non-native region with summer rain, which also exhibited the greatest variation in winter precipitation among studied regions. These results suggest that rather than general climatic patterns, the degree of risk experienced at early developmental stages could exert an important control over the germination strategy of C. solstitialis populations in both native and non-native ranges. Also, these findings reveal a largely unique germination response in C. solstitialis genotypes growing in the non-native region with summer rain and high variation in winter precipitation. Our work raises the possibility that rapid adaptive changes in germination strategies may contribute to the success of globally distributed invaders.