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Does enemy damage vary across the range of exotic plant species? Evidence from two coastal dune plant species in eastern Australia


Release from natural enemies is often cited as a key factor for understanding the success of invasive plant species in novel environments. However, with time invasive species will accumulate native enemies in their invaded range, with factors such as spread distance from the site of introduction, climate and leaf-level traits potentially affecting enemy acquisition rates. However, the influence of such factors is difficult to assess without examining enemy attack across the entire species’ range. We tested the significance of factors associated with range expansion (distance from source population and maximum population density), climatic variables (annual temperature and rainfall) and leaf-level traits [specific leaf area (SLA) and foliar nitrogen concentration] in explaining variation in enemy damage across multiple populations of two coastal invasive plants (Gladiolus gueinzii Kunze and Hydrocotyle bonariensis Lam.) along their entire introduced distribution in eastern Australia. We found that for H. bonariensis, amount of foliar damage increased with distance from source population. In contrast, for G. gueinzii, probability and amount of foliar damage decreased with decreasing temperature and increasing rainfall, respectively. Our results show that patterns of enemy attack across species’ ranges are complex and cannot be generalised between species or even range edges.

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We thank Joshua Griffiths, Veronica Shaw, Claire Laws, Guyo Gufu, James Lawson and Rachael Gallagher for kind assistance in the field. We also thank Muhammad Masood for patiently conducting the C:H:N analysis. The experiments comply with the current laws of Australia in which the experiments were performed.

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ST and MRL conceived the idea and developed the methodology. ST undertook the fieldwork, analysed the data and wrote the manuscript. MRL provided editorial advice.

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Correspondence to Samiya Tabassum.

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Communicated by Wayne Dawson.

This study is the first to thoroughly investigate variation in and causes of enemy damage in multiple populations across invasive species’ ranges. We found that patterns of enemy attack varied greatly between species, which have significant implications for enemy release within invaded ranges.

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Tabassum, S., Leishman, M.R. Does enemy damage vary across the range of exotic plant species? Evidence from two coastal dune plant species in eastern Australia. Oecologia 186, 303–309 (2018).

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  • Enemy release
  • Plant invasions
  • Population density
  • Leaf traits
  • Range limits