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Keywords:

  • coevolution;
  • competition;
  • contemporary evolution;
  • invasive species;
  • management;
  • microevolution;
  • restoration

Abstract

Invasive species may establish in communities because they are better competitors than natives, but in order to remain community dominants, the competitive advantage of invasive species must be persistent. Native species that are not extirpated when highly invasive species are introduced are likely to compete with invaders. When population sizes and genetic diversity of native species are large enough, natives may be able to evolve traits that allow them to co-occur with invasive species. Native species may also evolve to become significant competitors with invasive species, and thus affect the fitness of invaders. Invasive species may respond in turn, creating either transient or continuing coevolution between competing species. In addition to demographic factors such as population size and growth rates, a number of factors including gene flow, genetic drift, the number of selection agents, encounter rates, and genetic diversity may affect the ability of native and invasive species to evolve competitive ability against one another. We discuss how these factors may differ between populations of native and invasive plants, and how this might affect their ability to respond to selection. Management actions that maintain genetic diversity in native species while reducing population sizes and genetic diversity in invasive species could promote the ability of natives to evolve improved competitive ability.