Controls over plant invasions

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The spread and impact of plant invasions shed light on fascinating ecological processes with important implications for the management and conservation of natural areas.

Much of our ongoing work in this area uses models and experiments to explore the plant vital rates that contribute to population spread, and how these rates evolve in expanding populations. In a greenhouse experiment with Arabidopsis, we are evaluating how much faster invasions spread as a consequence of evolution during the spread process. Several projects are exploring the importance of genetic diversity and local adaptation for invasion along altitudinal and latitudinal gradients, and the invasion of new continents.

We are also exploring tradeoffs between plant vital rates important for spread (fecundity, time to maturity, dispersal), and where along those tradeoff curves plant populations spread the fastest. Finally, we are exploring the factors determining the outcome of competition between native and invasive species, with particular recent attention to the role of plant phenology. Much of this work uses plant invasions as a model system to predict how native populations will spread and evolve with climate change.

Key publications

Williams, J.L., B.E. Kendall, and J.M. Levine. 2016.
Rapid evolution accelerates plant population spread in fragmented experimental landscapes.
Science 353:482-485.

Godoy, O. and J.M. Levine. 2014.
Phenology effects on invasion success: insights from coupling field experiments to coexistence theory.
Ecology 95:726-736.

Alexander, J.M. 2013.
Evolution under changing climates: climatic niche stasis despite rapid evolution in a non-native plant.
Proceedings of the Royal Society B, 280:20131446.

Gilbert, B. and J.M. Levine. 2013.
Plant invasions and extinction debts.
Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 110:1744-1749.

Pachepsky, E. and J.M. Levine. 2011.
Density dependence slows invader spread in fragmented landscapes.
American Naturalist 177:18-28.

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