Introduction to the special issue : tree invasions : towards a better understanding of their complex evolutionary dynamics

Hirsch, Heidi ; Richardson, David M. ; Le Roux, Johannes J. (2017)

CITATION: Hirsch, H., Richardson, D. M. & Le Roux, J. J. 2017. Introduction to the special issue : tree invasions : towards a better understanding of their complex evolutionary dynamics. AoB PLANTS, 9(3):1-8, doi:10.1093/aobpla/plx014.

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Many invasive plants show evidence of trait-based evolutionary change, but these remain largely unexplored for invasive trees. The increasing number of invasive trees and their tremendous impacts worldwide, however, illustrates the urgent need to bridge this knowledge gap to apply efficient management. Consequently, an interdisciplinary workshop, held in 2015 at Stellenbosch University in Stellenbosch, South Africa, brought together international researchers to discuss our understanding of evolutionary dynamics in invasive trees. The main outcome of this workshop is this Special Issue of AoB PLANTS. The collection of papers in this issue has helped to identify and assess the evolutionary mechanisms that are likely to influence tree invasions. It also facilitated expansion of the unified framework for biological invasions to incorporate key evolutionary processes. The papers cover a wide range of evolutionary mechanisms in tree genomes (adaptation), epigenomes (phenotypic plasticity) and their second genomes (mutualists), and show how such mechanisms can impact tree invasion processes and management. The special issue provides a comprehensive overview of the factors that promote and mitigate the invasive success of tree species in many parts of the world. It also shows that incorporating evolutionary concepts is crucial for understanding the complex drivers of tree invasions and has much potential to improve management. The contributions of the special issue also highlight many priorities for further work in the face of ever-increasing tree invasions; the complexity of this research needs calls for expanded interdisciplinary research collaborations.

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