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Keywords:

  • Biological control;
  • evolution of increased competitive ability;
  • exotic species;
  • growth rate;
  • introduced species;
  • natural enemies hypothesis;
  • plant defence;
  • specialist and generalist herbivores;
  • tissue nutrient content;
  • weed

Abstract

Understanding why some exotic species become invasive is essential to controlling their populations. This review discusses the possibility that two mechanisms of invasion, release from natural enemies and increased resource availability, may interact. When plants invade new continents, they leave many herbivores and pathogens behind. Species most regulated by enemies in their native range have the most potential for enemy release, and enemy regulation may be strongest for high-resource species. High resource availability is associated with low defence investment, high nutritional value, high enemy damage and consequently strong enemy regulation. Therefore, invasive plant species adapted to high resource availability may also gain most from enemy release. Strong release of high-resource species would predict that: (i) both enemy release and resources may underlie plant invasion, leading to potential interactions among control measures; (ii) increases in resource availability due to disturbance or eutrophication may increase the advantage of exotic over native species; (iii) exotic species will tend to have high-resource traits relative to coexisting native species; and (iv) although high-resource plants may experience strong enemy release in ecological time, well-defended low-resource plants may have stronger evolutionary responses to the absence of enemies.