Release from below- and aboveground natural enemies contributes to invasion success of a temperate invader.
Aims: Efforts to concurrently test for enemy release of both above- and belowground enemies for invasive plants in non-native range are limited. Moreover, direct evidence for the causal link between enemy release and performance is rare for invasive plants. Thus, we sought to investigate if above- and/or belowground enemies are involved in the enemy release mechanisms at various life stages of a temperate invader and their consequences on plant community properties. Methods: We conducted field surveys of enemy damage and plant performance, and plant-soil feedback experiments in the glasshouses using Ambrosia trifida in both its non-native and native ranges across the seed, seedling, and adult life stages. Results: Field surveys showed that seeds of A. trifida were more severely damaged by aboveground enemies in the native relative to the non-native range, while the difference in leaf damage between ranges was small. Plant-soil feedback experiments showed that release from belowground enemies was also important, as seed germination and plant growth were significantly reduced in soils from the native range compared with soils from the non-native range. Consistent with the above results, A. trifida was larger, produced more seeds, had higher density, and exerted stronger impacts on co-occurring native plants in the non-native relative to the native range. Conclusion: Our results demonstrated that release from both above- and belowground enemies at various life stages contributed to the invasion success of A. trifida in its non-native range and highlighted the importance of considering both above- and belowground enemy release when studying plant invasions.