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Variability in plant fitness influences range expansion of Leptospermum scoparium

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A reciprocal transplant experiment was conducted to uncouple genetic and environmental effects on plant fitness of a range-expanding indigenous shrub, Leptospermum scoparium. Patterns of encroachment differed significantly between three regions of Eucalyptuscamaldulensis woodland in the Grampians National Park, south-eastern Australia, with greater shrub densities found in the Victoria Valley region. Higher shrub densities in this region are likely due to greater fruit production/shrub, increased field germination and increased early seedling survival. The results of the reciprocal transplant experiment showed increased fitness appears to be due to phenotypic plasticity in response to favourable environmental conditions rather than genotypic variation. Field germination and seedling survival were influenced by region of planting and not seed origin. However, differences in shoot length and biomass of seedlings between the regions were detected after five months of growth in uniform conditions which may indicate genetic differentiation. The results, however, suggest range expansion is partly due to increased plant fitness which is likely a plastic response to favourable environmental conditions, especially soil moisture.
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Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: August 1, 2006

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