Mark Lonsdale: Faculty of 1000 Biology, 11 Mar 2010 http://f1000biology.com/article/id/2231956
This is the first study I am aware of to demonstrate that non-native plants adapt better to climate change than native species. It has significant implications for management of the threat of invasive species under climate change.
The phenological response of flowering plants to climate plays an important role in their ability to adapt and survive. The adaptability of their phenologies will therefore determine their survival under climate change. This study uses a unique historical dataset from Concord, Massachusetts (USA) to provide a novel analysis of the different effects of rising temperatures (a mean increase of 2.4°C) in the last 150 years on native vs. non-native phenology. The results indicate that (1) non-natives are significantly better able to track seasonal temperatures than native species (using a correlation coefficient between first flowering day and annual spring temperature) and (2) ‘Invasive’ non-natives have significantly shifted their flowering time over the last 100 years to be 11 days earlier on average than natives. (Note the distinction in the paper between invasive non-natives -- those capable of spreading and dominating plant communities -- and non-invasive non-natives -- those that are not judged capable spreading or becoming dominant.)
By demonstrating this ability of non-natives to better respond to climate change the results show an advantage non-natives may have over native species. It will be interesting to explore the underlying causes of their greater adaptability, perhaps due to factors such as natural enemy release.
Review by Michael Angilletta: