The fitness costs of reproduction by clonal growth can include a limited ability to adapt to environmental and temporal heterogeneity. Paradoxically, some facultatively clonal species are not only able to survive, but colonize, thrive and expand in heterogeneous environments. This is likely due to the capacity for acclimation (sensu stricto) that compensates for the fitness costs and complements the ecological advantages of clonality. Introduced Phragmites australis demonstrates great phenotypic plasticity in response to temperature, nutrient availability, geographic gradient, water depths, habitat fertility, atmospheric CO2, interspecific competition and intraspecific competition for light. However, no in situ comparative subspecies studies have explored the difference in plasticity between the non-invasive native lineage and the highly invasive introduced lineage. Clonality of the native and introduced lineages makes it possible to control for genetic variation, making P. australis a unique system for the comparative study of plasticity. Using previously identified clonal genotypes, we investigated differences in their phenotypic plasticity through measurements of the lengths and densities of stomata on both the abaxial (lower) and adaxial (upper) surfaces of leaves, and synthesized these measurements to estimate impacts on maximum stomatal conductance to water (gwmax). Results demonstrated that at three marsh sites, invasive lineages have consistently greater gwmax than their native congeners, as a result of greater stomatal densities and smaller stomata. Our analysis also suggests that phenotypic plasticity, determined as within-genotype variation in gwmax, of the invasive lineage is similar to, or exceeds, that shown by the native lineage.
Douhovnikoff, V.; Taylor, S. H.; Hazelton, E. L.G.; Smith, C. M.; and O'Brien, J., "Maximal stomatal conductance to water and plasticity in stomatal traits differ between native and invasive introduced lineages of Phragmites australis in North America" (2016). Biology Faculty Publications. 44.