A lack of native congeners may limit colonization of introduced conifers by indigenous insects in Europe.
We compared the recruitment of phytophagous arthropod pests onto exotic conifers introduced in Europe without any congeners with that of exotic conifers that have native congeners. In 130 years of extensive plantation forestry in Europe, Douglas-fir (Pseudotsuga menziesii) recruited only 87 arthropod species, i.e., only 33.9% of the number of associated arthropod species in its native range (257 spp.). Exotic species of Cupressaceae (Chamaecyparis lawsoniana and Thuja plicata) without indigenous congeners also recruited only a portion (3.4% to 57.9%) of the arthropod fauna observed in their native range. In both cases, the majority of the recruited species were polyphagous, i.e., that they can feed on plants of different families of conifers and (or) angiosperms. In contrast, exotic conifers with native congeners recruited most of the insects colonizing the native congeneric conifers. Differences in arthropod recruitment were observed according to both guild and feeding habit, with the externally feeding herbivores being dominant. Typically, the damage caused by native insects that had been recruited by exotic conifers without congeners was limited, whereas the damage caused by native insects that had been recruited by exotic conifers with congeners often led to severe outbreaks at the time the shift between hosts occurred. However, when a highly specialized exotic insect was introduced along with the host, the invasive insect tended to occupy the entire niche, causing more damage than in the original range, in the absence of natural enemies and indigenous competitors.