Multitrophic interactions on a range-expanding plant species

T.F.M. Fortuna

Research output: Thesisinternal PhD, WU

Abstract

Studies on the ecological impacts of exotic invasive plants have mainly focused on inter-continental invasions. However due to global environmental changes, a rapid increase in intra-continental range-expanding plants has been observed. In this context, multitrophic interactions between exotic plants, native herbivores and their natural enemies have been largely ignored. This thesis aimed at examining how an exotic range-expanding plant interacts with aboveground insect herbivores and their natural enemies and how it can contribute to the successful establishment of the exotic plant. In addition, it examines how resistance traits of different populations of the range-expander affect the behaviour and performance of herbivores and their natural enemies in the new habitat. Bunias orientalis (Capparales: Brassicaceae) is perennial plant from extreme south-eastern Europe and Asia that has recently expanded its range and become invasive in northern and central parts of Europe. In the Netherlands, it is considered naturalized but non-invasive.

Firstly, using a community approach, I found that Bu. orientalis suffered less herbivore damage and harboured smaller invertebrate communities than sympatric native Brassicaceae in the Netherlands. The exotic plant has been found of low quality for the larval growth of the specialist herbivore (Pieris brassicae). Furthermore, two of its gregarious parasitoids were differentially affected by the quality of the exotic plant. The pupal parasitoid (Pteromalus puparum) survived better than the larval parasitoid (Cotesia glomerata), and the latter parasitized less hosts on the exotic than on native plants. Therefore, the herbivore can be selected to adapt to the new plant by conferring an enemy free space to the herbivore. In this case, a plant shift by the specialist herbivore might occur and thus preventing the further spread of the exotic plant. Conversely, in the field I found greater carnivore pressure on Bu. orientalis compared to other native Brassicaceae, particularly in the peak of arthropod abundance. Hence, top-down forces exerted by herbivore natural enemies may act in concert with bottom-up control of plant resistance traits to counteract herbivore plant shift and promote the successful range expansion of the exotic plant.

Secondly, using a biogeographical approach, I found a considerable intraspecific variation in defence traits (trichomes, glucosinolates, metabolic fingerprints) of Bu. orientalis populations from the native and the exotic range. Plants collected in the native range were better defended than their exotic conspecifics. This variation matched with the performance of a generalist herbivore (Mamestra brassicae) and its parasitoid (Microplitis mediator), which developed poorly in plants from the native range. The results suggest that the defensive mechanisms of Bu. orientalis might have been counter-selected during the range expansion of the exotic plant. Further studies, however, need to examine if enemy release in the new range is followed by an increase in performance of the exotic plant. Finally, a comparative study of multitrophic interactions, both above- and belowground, in the plant native range and along the transect of its range expansion can help to clarify the mechanisms underlying the invasive success of Bu. orientalis.

Original languageEnglish
QualificationDoctor of Philosophy
Awarding Institution
  • Wageningen University
Supervisors/Advisors
  • Vet, Louise, Promotor
  • Harvey, J.A., Promotor, External person
Award date19 Nov 2013
Place of PublicationWageningen
Publisher
Print ISBNs9789461737656
Publication statusPublished - 2013

Keywords

  • plants
  • invasive species
  • introduced species
  • herbivores
  • invertebrates
  • natural enemies
  • predators
  • parasitoids
  • multitrophic interactions
  • bunias orientalis
  • defence mechanisms

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