Biological Invasions

, Volume 17, Issue 1, pp 165–178 | Cite as

Context-dependent patterns, determinants and demographic consequences of herbivory in an invasive species

  • Shekhar R. Biswas
  • Peter M. Kotanen
  • Dasvinder Kambo
  • Helene H. Wagner
Original Paper


Non-native invasive plants often lose many of their specialist herbivores in their invaded ranges, but new enemies may be recruited from the local generalist fauna, or from enemies themselves introduced to the same region. As a result, few invaders are free of herbivore damage; however, the incidence of this herbivory and its consequences for plant demography may depend on an array of biotic and abiotic factors. In Alliaria petiolata, a non-native invasive forb in Canada, we quantified the incidence of leaf herbivory, rosette survival and seed production along with conspecific plant density and environmental site conditions in wild populations in mesic forest understory and moist grasslands. We complemented the field survey by a laboratory experiment with Trichoplusia to test whether the palatability of leaf tissue of A. petiolata varies with plant life stage and habitat type. Incidence of herbivory was significantly higher in adults than in rosettes, and significantly higher in grasslands than in forest understory. The palatability experiment confirmed that leaves of adults were more palatable to a generalist herbivore than leaves of rosettes. Path analysis revealed negative plant density-dependent herbivory of adults in forest understory but positive density-dependent herbivory in grasslands. Incidence of herbivory in rosettes was positively associated with soil moisture in grasslands, but not in forest understory. Seed production was significantly positively associated with herbivory in adults and soil moisture, whereas rosette survival was significantly negatively associated with conspecific plant density. We conclude that the patterns, determinants and demographic consequences of herbivory in invasive Alliaria may strongly depend on a plant’s life stage and plant density and may further be confounded by landscape heterogeneity.


Alliaria petiolata Density-dependent herbivory Natural enemies Path analysis 



The study was supported by NSERC Discovery Grants to PMK and HHW. We thank Zangeetha Perinathan and Adrian DiFederico for assisting in the field survey, and Marie-Josée Fortin, Benjamin Gilbert and Mark Vellend for their constructive comments on earlier versions of this manuscript. All of the experiments conducted in this study comply with the current laws of Canada. This is a publication of Koffler Scientific Reserve at Jokers Hill.

Supplementary material

10530_2014_715_MOESM1_ESM.docx (266 kb)
Supplementary material 1 (DOCX 265 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing Switzerland 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  • Shekhar R. Biswas
    • 1
  • Peter M. Kotanen
    • 1
  • Dasvinder Kambo
    • 1
  • Helene H. Wagner
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Ecology and Evolutionary BiologyUniversity of TorontoMississaugaCanada

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