Do ploidy level and nuclear genome size and latitude of origin modify the expression of Phragmites australis traits and interactions with herbivores?

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We studied the relationship between genome size and ploidy level variation and plant traits for the reed grass Phragmites australis. Using a common garden approach on a global collection of populations in Aarhus, Denmark, we investigated the influence of monoploid genome size and ploidy level on the expression of P. australis growth, nutrition and herbivore-defense traits and whether monoploid genome size and ploidy level play different roles in plant trait expression. We found that both monoploid genome size and latitude of origin contributed to variation in traits that we studied for P. australis, with latitude of origin being generally a better predictor of trait values and that ploidy level and its interaction with monoploid genome size and latitude of origin also contributed to trait variation. We also found that for four traits, tetraploids and octoploids had different relationships with the monoploid genome size. While for tetraploids stem height and leaf water content showed a positive relationship with monoploid genome size, octoploids had a negative relationship with monoploid genome size for stem height and no relationship for leaf water content. As genome size within octoploids increased, the number of aphids colonizing leaves decreased, whereas for tetraploids there was a quadratic, though non-significant, relationship. Generally we found that tetraploids were taller, chemically better defended, had a greater number of stems, higher leaf water content, and supported more aphids than octoploids. Our results suggest trade-offs among plant traits mediated by genome size and ploidy with respect to fitness and defense. We also found that the latitude of plant origin is a significant determinant of trait expression suggesting local adaptation. Global climate change may favor some genome size and ploidy variants that can tolerate stressful environments due to greater phenotypic plasticity and to fitness traits that vary with cytotype which may lead to changes in population genome sizes and/or ploidy structure, particularly at species’ range limits.

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Biological Invasions