Oecologia

, Volume 174, Issue 3, pp 817–826 | Cite as

Release from herbivory does not confer invasion success for Eugenia uniflora in Florida

Plant-microbe-animal interactions - Original research

Abstract

One of the most commonly cited hypotheses explaining invasion success is the enemy release hypothesis (ERH), which maintains that populations are regulated by coevolved natural enemies where they are native but are relieved of this pressure in the new range. However, the role of resident enemies in plant invasion remains unresolved. We conducted a field experiment to test predictions of the ERH empirically using a system of native, introduced invasive, and introduced non-invasive Eugenia congeners in south Florida. Such experiments are rarely undertaken but are particularly informative in tests of the ERH, as they simultaneously identify factors allowing invasive species to replace natives and traits determining why most introduced species are unsuccessful invaders. We excluded insect herbivores from seedlings of Eugenia congeners where the native and invasive Eugenia co-occur, and compared how herbivore exclusion affected foliar damage, growth, and survival. We found no evidence to support the ERH in this system, instead finding that the invasive E. uniflora sustained significantly more damage than the native and introduced species. Interestingly, E. uniflora performed better than, or as well as, its congeners in terms of growth and survival, in spite of higher damage incidence. Further, although herbivore exclusion positively influenced Eugenia seedling survival, there were few differences among species and no patterns in regard to invasion status or origin. We conclude that the ability of E. uniflora to outperform its native and introduced non-invasive congeners, and not release from insect herbivores, contributes to its success as an invader in Florida.

Keywords

Enemy release hypothesis Herbivore exclusion Introduced non-invasive Phylogenetically controlled experiment Seedling performance 

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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Integrative BiologyUniversity of South FloridaTampaUSA

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