Meta-analysis reveals evolution in invasive plant species but little support for Evolution of Increased Competitive Ability (EICA)



Emmi Felker-Quinn, Environmental Protection Agency, 109 T.W. Alexander Drive, Research Triangle Park, NC, 27711, USA. Tel: 919-541-3071; Fax: 919-541-5078; E-mail:


Ecological explanations for the success and persistence of invasive species vastly outnumber evolutionary hypotheses, yet evolution is a fundamental process in the success of any species. The Evolution of Increased Competitive Ability (EICA) hypothesis (Blossey and Nötzold 1995) proposes that evolutionary change in response to release from coevolved herbivores is responsible for the success of many invasive plant species. Studies that evaluate this hypothesis have used different approaches to test whether invasive populations allocate fewer resources to defense and more to growth and competitive ability than do source populations, with mixed results. We conducted a meta-analysis of experimental tests of evolutionary change in the context of EICA. In contrast to previous reviews, there was no support across invasive species for EICA's predictions regarding defense or competitive ability, although invasive populations were more productive than conspecific native populations under noncompetitive conditions. We found broad support for genetically based changes in defense and competitive plant traits after introduction into new ranges, but not in the manner suggested by EICA. This review suggests that evolution occurs as a result of plant introduction and population expansion in invasive plant species, and may contribute to the invasiveness and persistence of some introduced species.