The great escape: patterns of enemy release are not explained by time, space, or climate

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Zoe Xirocostas , Jeff Ollerton, Riin Tamme, Begoña Peco, Vincent Lesieur, Eve Slavich, Robert R Junker, Meelis Pärtel, S Raghu, Akane Uesugi, Stephen P Bonser, Giancarlo M Chiarenza, Mark J Hovenden, Angela T Moles


When a plant is introduced to a new ecosystem it may escape from some of its coevolved herbivores. Reduced herbivore damage, and the ability of introduced plants to allocate resources from defence to growth and reproduction can increase the success of introduced species. This mechanism is known as enemy release and is known to occur in some species and situations, but not in others. Understanding the conditions under which enemy release is most likely to occur is important, as this will help us to identify which species and habitats may be most at risk of invasion. We compared in-situ measurements of herbivory on 16 plant species at 12 locations within their native European and introduced Australian ranges to quantify their level of enemy release and understand the relationship between enemy release and time, space, and climate. Overall, plants experienced approximately seven times more herbivore damage in their native range than in their introduced range. We found no evidence that enemy release was related to time since introduction, introduced range size, temperature, precipitation, humidity, or elevation. From here, we can explore whether traits such as leaf defences, or phylogenetic relatedness to neighbouring plants, are stronger indicators of enemy release across species.



Life Sciences


enemy release hypothesis, herbivory, Introduced species, introduction time, range size, invasion ecology, biocontrol


Published: 2023-05-22 19:05

Last Updated: 2023-05-22 23:04


CC BY Attribution 4.0 International

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Conflict of interest statement:

Data and Code Availability Statement:
Open data/code will become available upon acceptance after peer review.