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No adaptation to altitude in the invasive plant Erigeron annuus in the Swiss Alps

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The altitudinal distribution of plants is restricted by various environmental factors, with climatic conditions being one of the primary constraints. Here, we investigate what limits the altitudinal range of the introduced species Erigeron annuus in the Swiss Alps. We planted offspring of E. annuus plants originating from different altitudes into two common gardens, one located at an altitude representing the main area of distribution (400 m) and the other close to the current altitudinal limit of E. annuus in Switzerland (1000 m). In both common gardens all established plants survived and grew vigorously during the growing season. However, there was high winter mortality of seedlings at 1000 m. Furthermore, plant phenology was delayed and reproductive output was reduced at 1000 m, although the seeds produced were larger. The general lack of adaptation to altitude and only moderate levels of plasticity suggest that there is little potential for E. annuus to persist beyond its current altitudinal limit in the Swiss Alps. However, climate warming might promote the upward range expansion of E. annuus by reducing winter mortality and by increasing the chance of producing seeds within the growing season.
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Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: June 1, 2010

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