3 years ago

Reciprocal transplantations reveal strong niche differentiation among ploidy-differentiated species of the Senecio carniolicus aggregate (Asteraceae) in the easternmost Alps

Karl Hülber, Michaela Sonnleitner, Julian Haider, Martin Schwentenwein, Manuela Winkler, Gerald M. Schneeweiss, Peter Schönswetter


Phenotypic changes conferred by polyploidisation likely alter the ecological niche of polyploids, coming along with differences in performance compared to their diploid ancestors. However, it is largely unknown whether these performance differences remain constant during the life history of plants. Diploid Senecio noricus, tetraploid S. disjunctus, and hexaploid Senecio carniolicus s. str. of the autopolyploid species complex of S. carniolicus (Asteraceae) from the easternmost Alps were reciprocally transplanted to address the following questions: Are there differences in species performances indicating niche differentiation? If so, does the resident or the higher ploid species—which is taller growing and possibly more tolerant against challenging abiotic and biotic conditions—show higher performance? Are performance differences consistent between the early and late life-history stages? Our data suggest that the hierarchy of species performance depends on the life-history stage. For early life-history stages (seeds and seedlings), we mainly observed superior performance of S. carniolicus s. str. even on resident sites of the two other species. In contrast, vital rates of adults were predominantly highest for the resident species. The resident site of S. carniolicus s. str., which was expected to be environmentally least stressful (i.e., longest growing period, least affected by frost), turned out to be the most selective one, with high mortality and (nearly) no reproduction of the foreign species most likely due to top soil desiccation. Our study illustrates that there may be no clear-cut answer to the question if the resident or the higher ploid species shows superior performance in polyploid complexes, but rather suggests that relative performance may depend on life-history stage.

Open access
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