Ecol Evol. 2023 Aug 25;13(8):e10410. doi: 10.1002/ece3.10410. eCollection 2023 Aug.
Trait evolution in invasive plant species is important because it can impact demographic parameters key to invasion success. Invasive plant species often show phenotypic clines along geographic and climatic gradients. However, the relative contributions of natural selection and neutral evolutionary processes to phenotypic trait variation among populations of invasive plants remain unclear. A common method to assess whether a trait has been shaped by natural selection or neutral evolutionary processes is to compare the geographical pattern for the trait of interest to the divergence in neutral genetic loci (i.e., Q ST -F ST comparisons). Subsequently, a redundancy analysis (RDA) can facilitate identification of putative agents of natural selection on the trait. Here, we employed both a Q ST -F ST comparisons approach and RDA to infer whether natural selection shaped traits of invasive populations of Solidago canadensis in China and identify the potential environmental drivers of natural selection. We addressed two questions: (1) Did natural selection drive phenotypic trait variation among S. canadensis populations? (2) Did climatic, latitudinal, longitudinal, and altitudinal gradients drive patterns of genetic variation among S. canadensis populations? We found significant directional selection for several morphological and reproductive traits (i.e., Q ST > F ST) and stabilizing selection for physiological traits (i.e., Q ST < F ST). The RDA showed that stem biomass of S. canadensis was strongly positively correlated with longitude, while leaf width ratio and specific leaf area were significantly positively correlated with the mean diurnal range. Stem biomass had a strong negative correlation with annual precipitation. Moreover, height of S. canadensis individuals was strongly positively correlated with altitude and precipitation of the wettest quarter. A longitudinal shift in precipitation seasonality likely selected for larger stem biomass in S. canadensis. Overall, these results suggest that longitudinal and altitudinal clines in climate exerted strong selection pressures that shaped the phenotypic traits of S. canadensis.