Invasive plants and their escape from root herbivory: a worldwide comparison of the root-feeding nematode communities of the dune grass Ammophila arenaria in natural and introduced ranges

Research paper by W. H. van der Putten, G. W. Yeates, H. Duyts, C. Schreck. Reis, G. Karssen

Indexed on: 01 Jul '05Published on: 01 Jul '05Published in: Biological Invasions


Invasive plants generally have fewer aboveground pathogens and viruses in their introduced range than in their natural range, and they also have fewer pathogens than do similar plant species native to the introduced range. However, although plant abundance is strongly controlled by root herbivores and soil pathogens, there is very little knowledge on how invasive plants escape from belowground enemies. We therefore investigated if the general pattern for aboveground pathogens also applies to root-feeding nematodes and used the natural foredune grass Ammophila arenariaas a model. In the late 1800s, the European A. arenariawas introduced into southeast Australia (Tasmania), New Zealand, South Africa, and the west coast of the USA to be used for sand stabilization. In most of these regions, it has become a threat to native vegetation, because its excessive capacity to stabilize wind-blown sand has changed the geomorphology of coastal dunes. In stable dunes of most introduced regions, A. arenaria is more abundant and persists longer than in stabilized dunes of the natural range. We collected soil and root samples and used additional literature data to quantify the taxon richness of root-feeding nematodes on A.␣arenaria in its natural range and collected samples from the four major regions where it has been introduced. In most introduced regions A. arenaria did not have fewer root-feeding nematode taxa than the average number in its natural range, and native plant species did not have more nematode taxa than the introduced species. However, in the introduced range native plants had more feeding-specialist nematode taxa than A. arenaria and major feeding specialists (the sedentary endoparasitic cyst and root knot nematodes) were not found on A. arenaria in the southern hemisphere. We conclude that invasiveness of A. arenaria correlates with escape from feeding specialist nematodes, so that the pattern of escape from root-feeding nematodes is more alike escape from aboveground insect herbivores than escape from aboveground pathogens and viruses. In the natural range of A. arenaria, the number of specialist-feeding nematode taxa declines towards the margins. Growth experiments are needed to determine the relationship between nematode taxon diversity, abundance, and invasiveness of A. arenaria.