Release from native root herbivores and biotic resistance by soil pathogens in a new habitat both affect the alien Ammophila arenaria in South Africa

Irma C Knevel, Thomas Lans, Frank B J Menting, Ursula M Hertling, Wim H van der Putten
Oecologia 2004, 141 (3): 502-10
Many native communities contain exotic plants that pose a major threat to indigenous vegetation and ecosystem functioning. Therefore the enemy release hypothesis (ERH) and biotic resistance hypothesis (BRH) were examined in relation to the invasiveness of the introduced dune grass Ammophila arenaria in South Africa. To compare plant-soil feedback from the native habitat in Europe and the new habitat in South Africa, plants were grown in their own soil from both Europe and South Africa, as well as in sterilised and non-sterilised soils from a number of indigenous South African foredune plant species. While the soil feedback of most plant species supports the ERH, the feedback from Sporobolus virginicus soil demonstrates that this plant species may contribute to biotic resistance against the introduced A. arenaria, through negative feedback from the soil community. Not only the local plant species diversity, but also the type of plant species present seemed to be important in determining the potential for biotic resistance. As a result, biotic resistance against invasive plant species may depend not only on plant competition, but also on the presence of plant species that are hosts of potential soil pathogens that may negatively affect the invaders. In conclusion, exotic plant species such as A. arenaria in South Africa that do not become highly invasive, may experience the ERH and BRH simultaneously, with the balance between enemy escape versus biotic resistance determining the invasiveness of a species in a new habitat.

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