© 2016 by the Ecological Society of America. Apparent competition, the negative interaction between species mediated by shared natural enemies, is thought to play an important role in shaping the structure and dynamics of natural communities. However, its importance in driving species invasions, and whether the strength of this indirect interaction varies across the latitudinal range of the invasion, has not been fully explored. We performed replicated field experiments at four sites spanning 900 km along the Atlantic Coast of the United States to assess the presence and strength of apparent competition between sympatric native and invasive lineages of Phragmites australis. Four herbivore guilds were considered: stem-feeders, leaf-miners, leaf-chewers and aphids. We also tested the hypothesis that the strength of this interaction declines with increasing latitude. Within each site, native and invasive plants of P. australis were cross-transplanted between co-occurring native and invasive patches in the same marsh habitat and herbivore damage was evaluated at the end of the growing season. Apparent competition was evident for both lineages and involved all but the leaf-chewer guild. For native plants, total aphids per plant was 296% higher and the incidence of stem-feeding and leaf-mining herbivores was 34% and 221% higher, respectively, when transplanted into invasive than native patches. These data suggest that invasive P. australis has a negative effect on native P. australis via apparent competition. Averaged among herbivore types, the indirect effects of the invasive lineage on the native lineage was 57% higher than the reverse situation, suggesting that apparent competition was asymmetric. We also found that the strength of apparent competition acting against the native lineage was comparable to the benefits to the invasive lineage from enemy release (i.e., proportionately lower mean herbivory of the invasive relative to the native taxa). Finally, we found the first evidence that the strength of apparent competition acting against the native lineage (from stem-feeders only) decreased with increasing latitude. These results suggest that not only could apparent competition be of tantamount importance to enemy release in enhancing the establishment and spread of invasive taxa, but also that these indirect and direct herbivore effects could vary over the invasion range.
Publication Source (Journal or Book title)
Bhattarai, G., Meyerson, L., & Cronin, J. (2017). Geographic variation in apparent competition between native and invasive Phragmites australis. Ecology, 98 (2), 349-358. https://doi.org/10.1002/ecy.1646