Can plant–microbe–insect interactions enhance or inhibit the spread of invasive species?


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  1. Invasive species are one of the great challenges facing the world leading to great economic losses. Increasing numbers of species introductions are also increasing the likelihood of new species interactions – particularly between plants, microbes and insects.
  2. Frequently discovered interactions between plants, microbes and insects are giving rise to a new field: plant–microbe–insect (PMI) interactions. This paper focuses on novel PMI interactions created from the introduction of new plant, insect and microbe species. In particular, this paper asks: Do novel PMI interactions promote or inhibit invasive plants, microbes and insects? And can we predict whether novel PMI interactions are likely to become invasive?
  3. While we might predict that novel PMI interactions are likely to be simple additive interactions due to their relatively short period of interaction, instead this review demonstrates that most novel PMI interactions are actually nonadditive. This manuscript shows that there are a great number of instances where invasive species are promoted by novel PMI interactions. By contrast, the studied cases where PMI interactions limit invasive species are predominantly biocontrol PMI interactions.
  4. Future research on novel PMI interactions should focus on predicting future novel PMI interactions that promote invasive species. Given that many novel PMI interactions involve plant pathogens and their insect vectors, this novel PMI interaction deserves more focus. New research should also focus on non-novel PMI interactions that could be manipulated to hinder the spread of invasive plant, microbe and insect species.