Invasive Species Compendium

Detailed coverage of invasive species threatening livelihoods and the environment worldwide

Abstract

Invader partitions ecological and evolutionary responses to above- and belowground herbivory.

Abstract

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.