Aim Theory suggests that introduced species that are phylogenetically distant from their recipient communities should be more successful than closely related introduced species because they can exploit open niches and escape enemies in their new range, i.e. Darwin’s Naturalization Hypothesis. Alternatively, it has also been hypothesized that closely related invaders might be more successful than novel invaders because they are pre-adapted to conditions in their new range; a paradox coined Darwin’s Naturalization Conundrum. To date, these hypotheses have been tested primarily at the regional scale, not within local plant communities where introduced species colonize, compete and encounter herbivores.
Methods and Results We used community phylogenetics to analyse data from 49 published experiments to examine the importance of phylogenetic relatedness and generalist herbivory on native and exotic plant success at the community level. Plants that were categorized as ‘invasive’ were indeed less related to the recipient community than ‘non-pest’ exotic plants. Distantly related exotic plants were also more abundant than closely related species. Phylogenetic relatedness predicted herbivore impact, but in a way that was opposite to predictions, as herbivores had stronger, not lesser, impacts on distantly related plants. Importantly, these same patterns generally held for native plants, as distantly related native plants were more abundant and more susceptible to herbivores than closely related species, ultimately resulting in herbivores suppressing community-level phylogenetic diversity.
Main conclusions Distantly related plants were more locally successful despite experiencing stronger control by generalist herbivores, a finding that was robust across native and exotic species. To our knowledge, this is the first evidence that phylogenetic matching influences the local success of both native and exotic species and that herbivores can influence community phylodiversity. Phylogenetic relatedness explained a relatively small portion of the variance in the data even after taking herbivory into account, however, suggesting that phylogenetic matching works in combination with other factors to influence community assembly.