Soil fungi rather than bacteria were modified by invasive plants, and that benefited invasive plant growth
Tolerance, the degree to which plant fitness is affected by herbivory, is associated with invasiveness and biological control of introduced plant species. It is important to know the evolutionary changes in tolerance of invasive species after introduction in order to understand the mechanisms of biological invasions and assess the feasibility of biological control. While many studies have explored the evolutionary changes in resistance of invasive species, little has been done to address tolerance. We hypothesized that compared with plants from native populations, plants from invasive populations may increase growth and decrease tolerance to herbivory in response to enemy release in introduced ranges. To test this hypothesis, we compared the differences in growth and tolerance to simulated herbivory between plants from invasive and native populations of Chromolaena odorata, a noxious invader of the tropics and subtropics, at two nutrient levels. Surprisingly, flower number, total biomass (except at high nutrient), and relative increase in height were not significantly different between ranges. Also, plants from invasive populations did not decrease tolerance to herbivory at both nutrient levels. The invader from both ranges compensated fully in reproduction after 50 % of total leaf area had been damaged, and achieved substantial regrowth after complete shoot damage. This strong tolerance to damage was associated with increased resource allocation to reproductive structures and with mobilization of storage reserves in roots. The innately strong tolerance may facilitate invasion success of C. odorata and decrease the efficacy of leaf-feeding biocontrol agents. Our study highlights the need for further research on biogeographical differences in tolerance and their role in the invasiveness of exotic plants and biological control.