Crous, C.J., Burgess, T.I., Le Roux, J.J., Richardson, D.M., Slippers, B. & Wingfield, M.J. (2016) Ecological disequilibrium drives insect pests and pathogen accumulation in non-native trees.Aob Plants, 9(1), plw081. DOI:10.1093/aobpla/plw081 (IF2015 2,079; Q2 Plant Sciences)
Non-native trees have become dominant components of many landscapes, including urban ecosystems, commercial forestry plantations, fruit orchards and as invasives in natural ecosystems. Often, these trees have been separated from their natural enemies (i.e. insects and pathogens) leading to ecological disequilibrium, that is, the immediate breakdown of historically co-evolved interactions once introduced into novel environments. Long-established, non-native tree plantations provide useful experiments to explore the dimensions of such ecological disequilibria. We quantify the status quo of non-native insect pests and pathogens catching up with their tree hosts (planted Acacia, Eucalyptus and Pinus species) in South Africa, and examine which native South African enemy species utilize these trees as hosts. Interestingly, pines, with no confamilial relatives in South Africa and the longest residence time (almost two centuries), have acquired only one highly polyphagous native pathogen. This is in contrast to acacias and eucalypts, both with many native and confamilial relatives in South Africa that have acquired more native pathogens. These patterns support the known role of phylogenetic relatedness of non-native and native floras in influencing the likelihood of pathogen shifts between them. This relationship, however, does not seem to hold for native insects. Native insects appear far more likely to expand their feeding habits onto non-native tree hosts than are native pathogens, although they are generally less damaging. The ecological disequilibrium conditions of non-native trees are deeply rooted in the eco-evolutionary experience of the host plant, co-evolved natural enemies and native organisms from the introduced range. We should expect considerable spatial and temporal variation in ecological disequilibrium conditions among non-native taxa, which can be significantly influenced by biosecurity and management practices.