Seed wasp invasions promoted by unregulated seed trade affect vegetal and animal biodiversity.
Cone and seed insects are considered the most important predators of tree seeds during the pre-dispersal phase of development. Among them, exotic seed chalcids in the genus Megastigmus invaded Europe as a result of the rapidly-increasing and mostly unregulated seed trade for afforestation and ornamental plantations. Unlike their economic impact in seed orchards, until recently, little attention was paid to the ecological impact of these insects. In the present study, selected case studies of alien Megastigmus spp. were considered to assess their specific impact on the potential of natural regeneration of native woody plants and on the native entomofauna competing for seed resource. We re-analyzed data from former studies that did not focus on these ecological interactions and, here, present previously unpublished results. Seeds of Douglas-fir, true cedars, true firs and wild roses were sampled all over Europe, and the relative importance of the native and invasive chalcid species was assessed as well as their specific impact on seed yield. In most cases, the recent arrival of alien chalcids resulted in a significant decrease in the regeneration potential of the host trees. In the absence of competitors, alien chalcids occupied the entire seed niche in Douglas-fir, but their impact tended to decrease after the arrival of invasive seed bugs. In firs, alien chalcids tended to displace the native chalcids, but not in wild roses and cedars, where their damage was increasing. Different biological traits that might explain invasive success of alien chalcids are discussed. However, no general invasive patterns seem to exist.