Universiteit Leiden

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Research project

Invasive plant species, models for evolutionary change

Which traits did change due to the invasion process of plants and how do these traits contribute to the invasiveness of such species. What is the role of carbohydrate accumulation? What is the function of carbohydrate accumulation in plants? Is genetic variation depleted in invasive species under selection?

2015 - 2023
Klaas Vrieling
Chinese Scholarship Council (CSC) Chinese Scholarship Council (CSC)

Prof. dr. Ted Turlings, Université de Neuchâtel

In this project we investigate if fast evolutionary changes create invasive pest species and we use these changes to investigate important traits like defence mechanisms and carbohydrate storage.

Globalization has led to an increasing transport of plant species to new ranges. In several cases such plants species have developed into serious pests causing loss of biodiversity, economic losses and health problems.

Central in our research is the fast evolutionary change of such plants in their new environment. We study how this evolutionary process shapes an invasive species. Many of the changed traits are related to the defense mechanisms against herbivores and pathogens and carbohydrate storage. Changed traits often are selected to levels that are not present in the native areas. Such a large increase in the genetic variation in turn allows to study the ecological significance of these traits in the native area. For example the accumulation of carbohydrates in roots of invasive ragworts is decreased by 25% percent. This extended variation in carbohydrate allows to study the function of economically important storage of carbohydrate in plants. As a study system we use ragwort that is invasive in four different ranges.

  • Lin T, Klinkhamer PGL, Vrieling K. 2015. Parallel evolution in an invasive plant: effect of herbivores on competitive ability and regrowth of Jacobaea vulgaris. Ecology Letters 18: 668-676
  • Lin T, Doorduin L, Temme A, Pons T, Lamers G, Anten N, Vrieling K. 2015. Enemies lost: Parallel evolution in structural defense and tolerance to herbivory of invasive Jacobaea vulgaris. Biological Invasions 17:2339-2355
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