“Weeds can cause great economic and ecological harm to ecosystems,” begins a paper in New Phytologist by Adam Kuester, postdoctoral fellow, and Professor Gina Baucom. “Despite their importance, comparisons of the taxonomy and traits of successful weeds often focus on a few specific comparisons – for example, introduced versus native weeds.” Both work in the Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology at the University of Michigan.
The paper called “How weeds emerge: a taxonomic and trait-based examination using United States data” was published online Feb 4, 2014.
Kuester and Baucom, along with coauthors from the Kellogg Biological Station and Department of Plant Biology, Michigan State University, and the Department of Biological Sciences, University of Cincinnati, used publicly available inventories of U.S. plant species to make comprehensive comparisons of the factors that underlie weediness.
“We quantitatively examined taxonomy to determine if certain genera are overrepresented by introduced, weedy or herbicide-resistant species, and we compared phenotypic traits of weeds to those of nonweeds, whether introduced or native.
They uncovered genera that have more weeds and introduced species than what would be expected by chance and plant families that have more herbicide-resistant species than expected by chance. “Certain traits, generally related to fast reproduction, were more likely to be associated with weedy plants regardless of species' origins. We also found stress tolerance traits associated with either native or introduced weeds compared with native or introduced nonweeds. Weeds and introduced species have significantly smaller genomes than nonweeds and native species.
Their results support trends for weedy plants reported from other floras, suggest that native and introduced weeds have different stress adaptations, and provide a comprehensive survey of trends across weeds within the USA.