Enemy release does not increase performance of Cirsium arvense in New Zealand
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Cirsium arvense (L.) Scop. (Californian, Canada, or creeping thistle) is an exotic perennial herb indigenous to Eurasia that successfully established in New Zealand (NZ) approximately 130 years ago. Presently, C. arvense is considered one of the worst invasive weeds in NZ arable and pastoral productions systems. A mechanism commonly invoked to explain the apparent increased vigour of introduced weeds is release from natural enemies. The enemy-release hypothesis (ERH) predicts that plants in an introduced range should experience reduced herbivory, particularly from specialists, and that release from this natural enemy pressure facilitates increased plant performance in the introduced range. In 2007, surveys were carried out in 13 populations in NZ (7 in the North Island and 6 in the South Island) and in 12 populations in central Europe to quantify and compare growth characteristics of C. arvense in its native versus introduced range. Altitude and mean annual precipitation for each population were used as covariates in an attempt to explain differences or similarities in plant traits among ranges. All plant traits varied significantly among populations within a range. Shoot dry weight was greater in the South Island compared to Europe, which is in line with the prediction of increased plant performance in the introduced range; however, this was explained by environmental conditions. Contrary to expectations, the North Island was not different from Europe for all plant traits measured, and after adjustment for covariates showed decreased shoot density and dry weight compared to the native range. Therefore, environmental factors appear to be more favourable for growth of C. arvense in both the North and South Islands. In accordance with the ERH, there was significantly greater endophagous herbivory in the capitula and stems of shoots in Europe compared to both NZ ranges. In NZ, capitulum attack from Rhinocyllus conicus was found only in the North Island, and no stem-mining attack was found anywhere in NZ. Thus, although C. arvense experiences significantly reduced natural enemy pressure in both the North and South Islands of NZ there is no evidence that it benefits from this enemy release.