Biological Invasions

, Volume 17, Issue 2, pp 651–659 | Cite as

Genetic variation in invasive species response to direct and indirect species interactions

  • Casey P. terHorstEmail author
  • Jennifer A. Lau
Original Paper


Biotic resistance to invasion arises from strong species interactions that decrease the fitness and population growth rates of potential invaders. Strong, direct interactions such as predation and competition are typically thought to drive biotic resistance, but in diverse communities, indirect interactions among species may also affect biotic resistance. Further, genetic variation in traits of the invading species that affect species interactions may allow some genotypes to overcome biotic resistance. We investigated the direct and indirect effects of a native legume (Acmispon wrangelianus) and insect herbivores on the fitness of different genotypes of an invasive legume (Medicago polymorpha) in a California grassland. Insect herbivores decreased Medicago fitness, but only in the presence of Acmispon, suggesting that indirect interactions mediated through insects and Acmispon are important for deterring Medicago invasion. Some Medicago genotypes were less affected by interactions with other species, however. This genetic variance suggests that while biotic resistance reduced the reproductive success of most genotypes, a few genotypes were able to overcome these complex interactions. However, Medicago invasion was unsuccessful in all treatments at several of our sites, suggesting that factors beyond those manipulated here also play a key role at many sites. At sites where biotic resistance is important, spatial and temporal variation in community composition and the genetic composition of the invasion pool may explain the invasion success of Medicago into this community.


Apparent competition Species diversity Genetic diversity Herbivory Indirect effects 



We thank C. Gomola for field assistance in work conducted at the University of California Natural Reserve System’s Donald and Sylvia McLaughlin Reserve. This manuscript was improved by comments from T. Bassett, R. Prunier, E. Schultheis, T. Suwa, K. Whitney, the Ecology Reading Group at Florida State University, and several anonymous reviewers. Funding was provided by awards from the National Science Foundation to JAL (DEB-0918963) and to CPt (DMS-132490). Data from this study are archived at Dryad (doi: 10.5061/dryad.s6n57). This is contribution #1707 from the W. K. Kellogg Biological Station.

Supplementary material

10530_2014_756_MOESM1_ESM.docx (191 kb)
Supplementary material 1 (DOCX 191 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing Switzerland 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of BiologyCalifornia State University, NorthridgeNorthridgeUSA
  2. 2.Kellogg Biological Station and Department of Plant BiologyMichigan State UniversityHickory CornersUSA

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