Island Plant Syndromes: Native vs. Invasive Functional Traits
University of Hawaii, US
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Islands harbor unique biodiversity that is characterized by disharmonic species assemblages arising through dispersal and diversification. Island species are thought to have evolved convergently under similar island conditions to give rise to predictable phenotypes, referred to as island syndromes. For example, island plants are predicted to be more conservative in their functional traits, resulting in their vulnerability to com-petitive displacement by more acquisitive, invasive plant species. We examined this prediction in Hawaii where the native flora is over 90% endemic and where non-native plants now represent half of all species in natural areas. Sampling leaf economic spectrum traits for 90 woody plant species across steep environmen-tal gradients, we observed considerable trait variability among native and non-native species. Although non-native species were overall more acquisitive than native species, the differences were very small and unlike-ly to be a major factor underlying displacement of native by non-native plants. These results cast doubt on this island plant syndrome prediction, highlighting this as a fruitful area for future research.