Biological Invasions

, Volume 12, Issue 2, pp 337–351

The role of plant resistance and tolerance to herbivory in mediating the effects of introduced herbivores

Original Paper


While the generally negative consequences of introduced species are well known, little is appreciated on the role of the evolutionary history of plants with herbivores in mediating the indirect impacts of herbivory. We examined how variation in plant resistance and tolerance traits can mediate the effects of herbivory and can have differential indirect impacts on other species and processes. We used two examples of a native and an introduced herbivore, Castor canadensis (American beaver) and Cervus elaphus (Rocky Mountain elk) with Populus spp. to test a conceptual model regarding possible outcomes of species interactions with native and exotic mammalian herbivores. Using these two herbivore test cases, we make two predictions to create testable hypotheses across systems and taxa: First, adaptive traits of tolerance or resistance to herbivory will be fewer when exotic species feed on plant species with which they have no evolutionary history. Second, historical constraints of species interactions will allow for negative feedbacks to stabilize the effects of herbivory by a native species. Overall, these two case studies illustrate that plant resistance and tolerance traits can mediate the indirect consequences of herbivory on associated interacting species. Specifically, when there is no evolutionary history between the plants and herbivores, which is often the case with species introductions, the effects of herbivory are more likely to reduce genetic variation and habitat mosaics, thus indirectly affecting associated species.


Beaver Elk Genes to ecosystems Introduced herbivores Populus Resistance traits Tolerance traits 


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Ecology and Evolutionary BiologyUniversity of TennesseeKnoxvilleUSA

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