Climate change may shift interactions of invasive plants, herbivorous insects and native plants, potentially affecting biological control efficacy and non-target effects on native species. Here, we show how climate warming affects impacts of a multivoltine introduced biocontrol beetle on the non-target native plant Alternanthera sessilis in China. In field surveys across a latitudinal gradient covering their full distributions, we found beetle damage on A. sessilis increased with rising temperature and plant life history changed from perennial to annual. Experiments showed that elevated temperature changed plant life history and increased insect overwintering, damage and impacts on seedling recruitment. These results suggest that warming can shift phenologies, increase non-target effect magnitude and increase non-target effect occurrence by beetle range expansion to additional areas where A. sessilis occurs. This study highlights the importance of understanding how climate change affects species interactions for future biological control of invasive species and conservation of native species.
Conspecific and heterospecific aboveground and belowground herbivores often occur together in nature and their interactions may determine community structure. Here we show how aboveground adults and belowground larvae of the tallow tree specialist beetle Bikasha collaris and multiple heterospecific aboveground species interact to determine herbivore performance. Conspecific aboveground adults facilitate belowground larvae, but other aboveground damage inhibits larvae or has no effect. Belowground larvae increase conspecific adult feeding, but decrease heterospecific aboveground insect feeding and abundance. Chemical analyses and experiments with plant populations varying in phenolics show that all these positive and negative effects on insects are closely related to root and shoot tannin concentrations. Our results show that specific plant herbivore responses allow herbivore facilitation and inhibition to co-occur, likely shaping diverse aboveground and belowground communities. Considering species-specific responses of plants is critical for teasing apart inter- and intraspecific interactions in aboveground and belowground compartments.
Solidago canadensis is an aggressive invader in China. Solidago invasion success is partially attributed to allelopathic compounds release and more benefits from AM fungi, which potentially makes the properties of Solidago litter different from co-occurring natives. These properties may comprehensively affect litter decomposition of co-occurring natives. We conducted a field experiment to examine litter mixing effects in a Phragmites australis dominated community invaded by Solidago in southeast China. Solidago had more rapid mass and N loss rate than Phragmites when they decomposed separately. Litter mixing decreased N loss rate in Phragmites litter and increased that of Solidago. Large decreases in Phragmites mass loss and smaller increases in Solidago mass loss caused negative non-additive effect. Solidago litter extracts reduced soil C decomposition and N processes, suggested an inhibitory effect of Solidago secondary compounds. These results are consistent with the idea that nutrient transfer and secondary compounds both affected litter mixtures decomposition.
Litter decomposition is a fundamental ecosystem process in which breakdown and decay of plant detritus releases carbon and nutrients. Invasive exotic plants may produce litter that differs from native plant litter in quality and quantity. Such differences may impact litter decomposition and soil respiration in ways that depend on whether exotic and native plant litters decompose in mixtures. However, few field experiments have examined how exotic plants affect soil respiration via litter decomposition. Here, we conducted an in situ study of litter decomposition of an annual native grass (Eragrostis pilosa), a perennial exotic forb (Alternanthera philoxeroides), and their mixtures in an annual grassland in China to examine potential invasion effects on soil respiration. Alternanthera litter decomposed faster than Eragrostis litter when each was incubated separately. Mass loss in litter mixes was more rapid than predicted from rates in single species bags (only 35% of predicted mass remained at 8 months) showing synergistic effects. Notably, exotic plant litter decomposition rate was unchanged but native plant litter decomposition rate was accelerated in mixtures (decay constant k?=?0.20 month(-1)) compared to in isolation (k?=?0.10 month(-1)). On average, every litter type increased soil respiration compared to bare soil from which litter was removed. However, the increases were larger for mixed litter (1.82 times) than for Alternanthera litter (1.58 times) or Eragrostis litter (1.30 times). Carbon released as CO2 relative to litter carbon input was also higher for mixed litter (3.34) than for Alternathera litter (2.29) or Eragrostis litter (1.19). Our results indicated that exotic Alternanthera produces rapidly decomposing litter which also accelerates the decomposition of native plant litter in litter mixtures and enhances soil respiration rates. Thus, this exotic invasive plant species will likely accelerate carbon cycling and increase soil respiration even at intermediate stages of invasion in these annual grasslands.
During introduction, invasive plants can be released from specialist herbivores, but may retain generalist herbivores and encounter novel enemies. For fast-growing invasive plants, tolerance of herbivory via compensatory regrowth may be an important defense against generalist herbivory, but it is unclear whether tolerance responses are specifically induced by different herbivores and whether specificity differs among native and invasive plant populations. We conducted a greenhouse experiment to examine the variation among native and invasive populations of Chinese tallow tree, Triadica sebifera, in their specificity of tolerance responses to herbivores by exposing plants to herbivory from either one of two generalist caterpillars occurring in the introduced range of Triadica. Simultaneously, we measured the specificity of another defensive trait, extrafloral nectar (EFN) production, to detect potential tradeoffs between resistance and tolerance of herbivores. Invasive populations had higher aboveground biomass tolerance than native populations, and responded non-specifically to either herbivore, while native populations had significantly different and specific aboveground biomass responses to the two herbivores. Both caterpillar species similarly induced EFN in native and invasive populations. Plant tolerance and EFN were positively correlated or had no relationship and biomass in control and herbivore-damaged plants was positively correlated, suggesting little costs of tolerance. Relationships among these vegetative traits depended on herbivore type, suggesting that some defense traits may have positive associations with growth-related processes that are differently induced by herbivores. Importantly, loss of specificity in invasive populations indicates subtle evolutionary changes in defenses in invasive plants that may relate to and enhance their invasive success.
Invasive plants can be released from specialist herbivores and encounter novel generalists in their introduced ranges, leading to variation in defence among native and invasive populations. However, few studies have examined how constitutive and induced indirect defences change during plant invasion, especially during the juvenile stage.
Plants and herbivorous insects can each be dramatically affected by temperature. Climate warming may impact plant invasion success directly but also indirectly through changes in their natural enemies. To date, however, there are no tests of how climate warming shifts the interactions among invasive plants and their natural enemies to affect invasion success. Field surveys covering the full latitudinal range of invasive Alternanthera philoxeroides in China showed that a beetle introduced for biocontrol was rare or absent at higher latitudes. In contrast, plant cover and mass increased with latitude. In a 2-year field experiment near the northern limit of beetle distribution, we found the beetle sustained populations across years under elevated temperature, dramatically decreasing A. philoxeroides growth, but it failed to overwinter in ambient temperature. Together, these results suggest that warming will allow the natural enemy to expand its range, potentially benefiting biocontrol in regions that are currently too cold for the natural enemy. However, the invader may also expand its range further north in response to warming. In such cases where plants tolerate cold better than their natural enemies, the geographical gap between plant and herbivorous insect ranges may not disappear but will shift to higher latitudes, leading to a new zone of enemy release. Therefore, warming will not only affect plant invasions directly but also drive either enemy release or increase that will result in contrasting effects on invasive plants. The findings are also critical for future management of invasive species under climate change.
Global climate change may increase biological invasions in part because invasive species may have greater phenotypic plasticity than native species. This may be especially important for abiotic stresses such as salt inundation related to increased hurricane activity or sea level rise. If invasive species indeed have greater plasticity, this may reflect genetic differences between populations in the native and introduced ranges. Here, we examined plasticity of functional and fitness-related traits of Chinese tallow (Triadica sebifera) populations from the introduced and native ranges that were grown along a gradient of soil salinity (control: 0 ppt; Low: 5 ppt; Medium: 10 ppt; High: 15 ppt) in a greenhouse. We used both norm reaction and plasticity index (PIv) to estimate the conspecific phenotypic plasticity variation between invasive and native populations. Overall, invasive populations had higher phenotypic plasticity of height growth rate (HGR), aboveground biomass, stem biomass and specific leaf area (SLA). The plasticity Index (PIv) of height growth rate (HGR) and SLA each were higher for plants from invasive populations. Absolute performance was always comparable or greater for plants from invasive populations versus native populations with the greatest differences at low stress levels. Our results were consistent with the "Master-of-some" pattern for invasive plants in which the fitness of introduced populations was greater in more benign conditions. This suggests that the greater conspecific phenotypic plasticity of invasive populations compared to native populations may increase invasion success in benign conditions but would not provide a potential interspecific competitive advantage in higher salinity soils that may occur with global climate change in coastal areas.
Two mechanisms that have been proposed to explain success of invasive plants are unusual biotic interactions, such as enemy release or enhanced mutualisms, and increased resource availability. However, while these mechanisms are usually considered separately, both may be involved in successful invasions. Biotic interactions may be positive or negative and may interact with nutritional resources in determining invasion success. In addition, the effects of different nutrients on invasions may vary. Finally, genetic variation in traits between populations located in introduced versus native ranges may be important for biotic interactions and/or resource use. Here, we investigated the roles of soil biota, resource availability, and plant genetic variation using seedlings of Triadica sebifera in an experiment in the native range (China). We manipulated nitrogen (control or 4 g/m(2)), phosphorus (control or 0.5 g/m(2)), soil biota (untreated or sterilized field soil), and plant origin (4 populations from the invasive range, 4 populations from the native range) in a full factorial experiment. Phosphorus addition increased root, stem, and leaf masses. Leaf mass and height growth depended on population origin and soil sterilization. Invasive populations had higher leaf mass and growth rates than native populations did in fresh soil but they had lower, comparable leaf mass and growth rates in sterilized soil. Invasive populations had higher growth rates with phosphorus addition but native ones did not. Soil sterilization decreased specific leaf area in both native and exotic populations. Negative effects of soil sterilization suggest that soil pathogens may not be as important as soil mutualists for T. sebifera performance. Moreover, interactive effects of sterilization and origin suggest that invasive T. sebifera may have evolved more beneficial relationships with the soil biota. Overall, seedlings from the invasive range outperformed those from the native range, however, an absence of soil biota or low phosphorus removed this advantage.
The rate of new exotic recruitment following removal of adult invaders (reinvasion pressure) influences restoration outcomes and costs but is highly variable and poorly understood. We hypothesize that broad variation in average reinvasion pressure of Triadica sebifera (Chinese tallow tree, a major invader) arises from differences among habitats in spatiotemporal availability of realized recruitment windows. These windows are periods of variable duration long enough to permit establishment given local environmental conditions. We tested this hypothesis via a greenhouse mesocosm experiment that quantified how the duration of favorable moisture conditions prior to flood or drought stress (window duration), competition and nutrient availability influenced Triadica success in high stress environments. Window duration influenced pre-stress seedling abundance and size, growth during stress and final abundance; it interacted with other factors to affect final biomass and germination during stress. Stress type and competition impacted final size and biomass, plus germination, mortality and changes in size during stress. Final abundance also depended on competition and the interaction of window duration, stress type and competition. Fertilization interacted with competition and stress to influence biomass and changes in height, respectively, but did not affect Triadica abundance. Overall, longer window durations promoted Triadica establishment, competition and drought (relative to flood) suppressed establishment, and fertilization had weak effects. Interactions among factors frequently produced different effects in specific contexts. Results support our outgrow the stress hypothesis and show that temporal availability of abiotic windows and factors that influence growth rates govern Triadica recruitment in stressful environments. These findings suggest that native seed addition can effectively suppress superior competitors in stressful environments. We also describe environmental scenarios where specific management methods may be more or less effective. Our results enable better niche-based estimates of local reinvasion pressure, which can improve restoration efficacy and efficiency by informing site selection and optimal management.
To date, it remains unclear how herbivore-induced changes in plant primary and secondary metabolites impact above-ground and below-ground herbivore interactions. Here, we report effects of above-ground (adult) and below-ground (larval) feeding by Bikasha collaris on nitrogen and secondary chemicals in shoots and roots of Triadica sebifera to explain reciprocal above-ground and below-ground insect interactions. Plants increased root tannins with below-ground herbivory, but above-ground herbivory prevented this increase and larval survival doubled. Above-ground herbivory elevated root nitrogen, probably contributing to increased larval survival. However, plants increased foliar tannins with above-ground herbivory and below-ground herbivory amplified this increase, and adult survival decreased. As either foliar or root tannins increased, foliar flavonoids decreased, suggesting a trade-off between these chemicals. Together, these results show that plant chemicals mediate contrasting effects of conspecific larval and adult insects, whereas insects may take advantage of plant responses to facilitate their offspring performance, which may influence population dynamics.
Biotic interactions are often important in the establishment and spread of invasive species. In particular, competition between introduced and native species can strongly influence the distribution and spread of exotic species and in some cases competition among introduced species can be important. The Caribbean crazy ant, Nylanderia fulva, was recently introduced to the Gulf Coast of Texas, and appears to be spreading inland. It has been hypothesized that competition with the red imported fire ant, Solenopsis invicta, may be an important factor in the spread of crazy ants. We investigated the potential of interspecific competition among these two introduced ants by measuring interspecific aggression between Caribbean crazy ant workers and workers of Solenopsis invicta. Specifically, we examined the effect of body size and diet on individual-level aggressive interactions among crazy ant workers and fire ants. We found that differences in diet did not alter interactions between crazy ant workers from different nests, but carbohydrate level did play an important role in antagonistic interactions with fire ants: crazy ants on low sugar diets were more aggressive and less likely to be killed in aggressive encounters with fire ants. We found that large fire ants engaged in fewer fights with crazy ants than small fire ants, but fire ant size affected neither fire ant nor crazy ant mortality. Overall, crazy ants experienced higher mortality than fire ants after aggressive encounters. Our findings suggest that fire ant workers might outcompete crazy ant workers on an individual level, providing some biotic resistance to crazy ant range expansion. However, this resistance may be overcome by crazy ants that have a restricted sugar intake, which may occur when crazy ants are excluded from resources by fire ants.
Invasive plants often display genetically determined variation in patterns of growth and resource allocation between native and introduced genotypes, as well as among genotypes within different regions of the introduced range. We examined patterns of genetic variation within and among native and introduced populations of the tetraploid Chinese tallow tree (Triadica sebifera, Euphorbiaceae) to determine whether nonselective evolutionary processes or the introduction history could contribute to previously observed phenotypic differences between native and introduced populations as well as among introduced populations.
Invasive plants often have novel biotic interactions in their introduced ranges. Their defense to herbivory may differ from their native counterparts, potentially influencing the effectiveness of biological control. If invasive plants have decreased resistance but increased tolerance to enemies, insect herbivores may rapidly build up their populations but exert weak control. Moreover, resource availability to plants may affect the efficacy of biological control agents. We tested these predictions using Chinese tallow tree (Triadica sebifera) and two specialist herbivores (Heterapoderopsis bicallosicollis and Gadirtha inexacta) that are candidates for biological control. We performed a pair of field common garden experiments in China in which Triadica seedlings from the native or introduced range were grown in low or high light conditions and subjected to different levels of herbivory by each herbivore in a factorial design. We found that Heterapoderopsis achieved greater densities on tallow trees from the introduced range or when trees were grown in high light conditions. When Gadirtha was raised in the lab on tallow tree foliage we found that it performed better (larger pupal size) when fed foliage from introduced populations. However, introduced populations generally had greater herbivore tolerance such that the impact of each agent on plant performance was lower than on native populations despite higher herbivore loads. Tallow trees grew more slowly and achieved smaller sizes in lower light levels, but the impact of biological control agents was comparable to that found for higher light levels. Plants from introduced populations grew larger than those from native populations in all conditions. Our results suggest that reduced resistance and increased tolerance to herbivory in introduced populations may impede success of biological control programs. Biological control practitioners should include plants from the introduced range in the prerelease evaluation, which will help predict insect impact on target weeds.
On a local scale, invasiveness of introduced species and invasibility of habitats together determine invasion success. A key issue in invasion ecology has been how to quantify the contribution of species invasiveness and habitat invasibility separately. Conventional approaches, such as comparing the differences in traits and/or impacts of species between native and/or invaded ranges, do not determine the extent to which the performance of invaders is due to either the effects of species traits or habitat characteristics. Here we explore the interaction between two of the most widespread earthworm invaders in the world (Asian Amynthas agrestis and European Lumbricus rubellus) and study the effects of species invasiveness and habitat invasibility separately through an alternative approach of "third habitat" in Tennessee, USA. We propose that feeding behaviors of earthworms will be critical to invasion success because trophic ecology of invasive animals plays a key role in the invasion process. We found that (1) the biomass and isotopic abundances (delta13C and delta15N) of A. agrestis were not impacted by either direct effects of L. rubellus competition or indirect effects of L. rubellus-preconditioned habitat; (2) A. agrestis disrupted the relationship between L. rubellus and soil microorganisms and consequently hindered litter consumption by L. rubellus; and (3) compared to L. rubellus, A. agrestis shifted its diet more readily to consume more litter, more soil gram-positive (G+) bacteria (which may be important for litter digestion), and more non-microbial soil fauna when soil microorganisms were depleted. In conclusion, A. agrestis showed strong invasiveness through its dietary flexibility through diet shifting and superior feeding behavior and its indirectly negative effect of habitat invasibility on L. rubellus via changes in the soil microorganism community. In such context, our results expand on the resource fluctuation hypothesis and support the superior competitor hypothesis. This work presents additional approaches in invasion ecology, provides some new dimensions for further research, and contributes to a greater understanding of the importance of interactions between multiple invading species.
Interactions between above- and belowground herbivory may, affect plant performance and structure communities. Though many studies have documented interactions of invasive plants and.herbivores, none shows how above- and belowground herbivores interact to affect invasive plant performance. Here, in a common garden in China, we subjected genetically differentiated tallow trees (Triadica sebifera) from native (China) and invaded (United States) ranges to herbivory by aboveground adults and belowground larvae of a specialist beetle, Bikasha collaris. Overall, relative to plants from China, U.S. plants had greater total and aboveground mass, comparable belowground mass, lower resistance to both above- and belowground herbivory, and higher tolerance to aboveground herbivory only. Accordingly, aboveground adults had greater impacts on Chinese plants, but belowground larvae more strongly impacted U.S. plants. These results indicate that the invader may adopt an "aboveground first" strategy, allocating more resources aboveground in response to selection for increased competitive ability, which increases aboveground tolerance to herbivory. Furthermore, we found that adults facilitated larval success, and these feedbacks were stronger for U.S. plants, suggesting that aboveground feeding of adults may be associated with lower defenses and/or higher resources belowground in the invader. Therefore, plants may have evolved different responses to above- and belowground herbivory, which can affect invasion success and herbivore population dynamics. These findings may provide new insights for an effective biological control program against invasive plants.
Ecosystems that are heavily invaded by an exotic species often contain abundant populations of other invasive species. This may reflect shared responses to a common factor, but may also reflect positive interactions among these exotic species. Armand Bayou (Pasadena, TX) is one such ecosystem where multiple species of invasive aquatic plants are common. We used this system to investigate whether presence of one exotic species made subsequent invasions by other exotic species more likely, less likely, or if it had no effect. We performed an experiment in which we selectively removed exotic rooted and/or floating aquatic plant species and tracked subsequent colonization and growth of native and invasive species. This allowed us to quantify how presence or absence of one plant functional group influenced the likelihood of successful invasion by members of the other functional group. We found that presence of alligatorweed (rooted plant) decreased establishment of new water hyacinth (free-floating plant) patches but increased growth of hyacinth in established patches, with an overall net positive effect on success of water hyacinth. Water hyacinth presence had no effect on establishment of alligatorweed but decreased growth of existing alligatorweed patches, with an overall net negative effect on success of alligatorweed. Moreover, observational data showed positive correlations between hyacinth and alligatorweed with hyacinth, on average, more abundant. The negative effect of hyacinth on alligatorweed growth implies competition, not strong mutual facilitation (invasional meltdown), is occurring in this system. Removal of hyacinth may increase alligatorweed invasion through release from competition. However, removal of alligatorweed may have more complex effects on hyacinth patch dynamics because there were strong opposing effects on establishment versus growth. The mix of positive and negative interactions between floating and rooted aquatic plants may influence local population dynamics of each group and thus overall invasion pressure in this watershed.
Herbivory can reduce plant fitness, and its effects can be increased by competition. Though numerous studies have examined the joint effects of herbivores and competitors on plant performance, these interactive effects are seldom considered in the context of plant invasions. Here, we examined variation in plant performance within a competitive environment in response to both specialist and generalist herbivores using Chinese tallow as a model species. We combined tallow plants from native and invasive populations to form all possible pairwise combinations, and designated invasive populations as stronger neighbours and native populations as weaker neighbours. We found that when no herbivory was imposed, invasive populations always had higher total biomass than natives, regardless of their neighbours, which is consistent with our assumption of increased competitive ability. Defoliation by either generalist or specialist herbivores suppressed plant growth but the effects of specialists were generally stronger for invasive populations. Invasive populations had their lowest biomass when fed upon by specialists while simultaneously competing with stronger neighbours. The root/shoot ratios of invasive populations were lower than those of native populations under almost all conditions, and invasive plants were taller than native plants overall, especially when herbivores were present, suggesting that invasive populations may adopt an "aboveground first" strategy to cope with herbivory and competition. These results suggest that release from herbivores, especially specialists, improves an invaders performance and helps to increase its competitive ability. Therefore, increasing interspecific competition intensity by planting a stronger neighbour while simultaneously releasing a specialist herbivore may be an especially effective method of managing invasive plants.
Meta-analysis is increasingly used in ecology and evolutionary biology. Yet, in these fields this technique has an important limitation: phylogenetic non-independence exists among taxa, violating the statistical assumptions underlying traditional meta-analytic models. Recently, meta-analytical techniques incorporating phylogenetic information have been developed to address this issue. However, no syntheses have evaluated how often including phylogenetic information changes meta-analytic results. To address this gap, we built phylogenies for and re-analysed 30 published meta-analyses, comparing results for traditional vs. phylogenetic approaches and assessing which characteristics of phylogenies best explained changes in meta-analytic results and relative model fit. Accounting for phylogeny significantly changed estimates of the overall pooled effect size in 47% of datasets for fixed-effects analyses and 7% of datasets for random-effects analyses. Accounting for phylogeny also changed whether those effect sizes were significantly different from zero in 23 and 40% of our datasets (for fixed- and random-effects models, respectively). Across datasets, decreases in pooled effect size magnitudes after incorporating phylogenetic information were associated with larger phylogenies and those with stronger phylogenetic signal. We conclude that incorporating phylogenetic information in ecological meta-analyses is important, and we provide practical recommendations for doing so.
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