Biological Invasions

, Volume 21, Issue 2, pp 547–559 | Cite as

Enemy-free space is important in driving the host expansion of a generalist herbivore to an inferior exotic plant in a wetland of Yangtze Estuary

  • Jing Zhang
  • Rui-Ting Ju
  • Hui Pan
  • Su-Feng Pan
  • Jie WuEmail author
Original Paper


Novel interactions between exotic plants and native herbivores can be driven by multiple ecological and evolutionary processes, but the underlying mechanisms have rarely been explored from a multitrophic perspective. In this study, we examined the effects of host plant quality and natural enemies on the host plant use of a native generalist Laelia coenosa, which was recently known to expand its host range from indigenous Phragmites australis to invasive exotic Spartina alterniflora in the wetlands of Yangtze Estuary, China. A field population survey showed that larval density of L. coenosa was significantly higher in S. alterniflora monocultures (SM) than in P. australis monocultures (PM) and patches in S. alterniflora-dominated communities (PIS). Nonetheless, an indoor rearing experiment suggested feeding on S. alterniflora significantly reduced larval growth rate, cocoon weight, adult lifespan and female lifetime fecundity of L. coenosa in comparison with P. australis. Despite an induced feeding preference in 5th instar larvae, both 1st and 3rd instar larvae of L. coenosa significantly preferred leaves of P. australis over S. alterniflora. These results contradicted the field population survey. Subsequent field experiments showed larval mortality of L. coenosa significantly increased in habitats with SM < PIS < PM. The same trend was observed in the egg parasitism rate of L. coenosa by a specialized parasitoid Telenomus laelia. Generally, our study suggests that the enemy-free space provided by the invasive S. alterniflora is important in driving the host expansion of L. coenosa to this inferior exotic plant.


Spartina alterniflora Laelia coenosa Invasive exotic plant Host plant quality Population expansion Enemy-free space 



We thank Ying Sun and Xiu-Zhi Chen of the Shanghai Jiuduansha Wetland Nature Reserve Management Bureau for their assistance in this field investigation. This research was financially supported by the National Natural Science Foundation of China (NSFC) (Grant Nos. 31770580 and 31670544).

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Supplementary material

10530_2018_1845_MOESM1_ESM.doc (32 kb)
Supplementary material 1 (DOC 31 kb)
10530_2018_1845_MOESM2_ESM.doc (30 kb)
Supplementary material 2 (DOC 29 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Jing Zhang
    • 1
  • Rui-Ting Ju
    • 2
  • Hui Pan
    • 1
  • Su-Feng Pan
    • 1
    • 3
  • Jie Wu
    • 1
    Email author
  1. 1.Shanghai Entomological Museum, Institute of Plant Physiology and EcologyChinese Academy of SciencesShanghaiChina
  2. 2.Ministry of Education Key Laboratory for Biodiversity Science and Ecological Engineering, Institute of Biodiversity ScienceFudan UniversityShanghaiChina
  3. 3.School of Life SciencesEast China Normal UniversityShanghaiChina

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