- Introduced organisms,
- Phenotypic plasticity,
- Salt marshes -- Effect of climatic changes on,
- Spartina -- Pacific Coast (North America)
Some introduced species spread rapidly beyond their native range and into novel habitats mediated by a high degree of phenotypic plasticity and/or rapid evolutionary responses. In this context, clonality has been described as a significant factor contributing to invasiveness. We studied the abiotic environment and the responses of different tussock architecture traits of the invasive cordgrass Spartina densiflora Brongn. (Poaceae). A common garden experiment and field studies of S. densiflora in salt marshes across a wide latitudinal gradient from California (USA) to British Columbia (Canada) provided a model system for an integrated study of the potential mechanisms underlying the response of invasive S. densiflora populations to changes in environmental conditions. Our results showed that S. densiflora is able to adjust to widely variable climate (specifically, air temperature and the duration of the growing season) and sediment conditions (specifically, texture and hypoxia) through phenotypical plastic key functional tussock traits (e.g. shoot density, height, above- and below-ground biomass allocation patterns). Root biomass increased in coarser sediments in contrast to rhizomes, which were more abundant in finer sediments. Above-ground biomass and leaf area index increased mainly with air temperature during summer, and more robust (taller and wider) shoots were associated with more oxygenated sediments. In view of our results, S. densifloraappears to be a halophyte with a high degree of phenotypic plasticity that would enable it to respond successfully to changes in the abiotic conditions of salt marshes driven by global climate change, such as increasing salinity and temperatures.