Opposing Effects of Native and Exotic Herbivores on Plant Invasions

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Science  10 Mar 2006:
Vol. 311, Issue 5766, pp. 1459-1461
DOI: 10.1126/science.1121407

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Exotic species are widely assumed to thrive because they lack natural enemies in their new ranges. However, a meta-analysis of 63 manipulative field studies including more than 100 exotic plant species revealed that native herbivores suppressed exotic plants, whereas exotic herbivores facilitated both the abundance and species richness of exotic plants. Both outcomes suggest that plants are especially susceptible to novel, generalist herbivores that they have not been selected to resist. Thus, native herbivores provide biotic resistance to plant invasions, but the widespread replacement of native with exotic herbivores eliminates this ecosystem service, facilitates plant invasions, and triggers an invasional “meltdown.”

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