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Durham University

Department of Biosciences


Publication details for Dr Wayne Dawson

Dawson, W. (2015). Release from belowground enemies and shifts in root traits as interrelated drivers of alien plant invasion success: a hypothesis. Ecology and Evolution 5(20): 4505-4516.

Author(s) from Durham


Our understanding of the interrelated mechanisms driving plant invasions, such as the interplay between enemy release and resource-acquisition traits, is biased by an aboveground perspective. To address this bias, I hypothesize that plant release from belowground enemies (especially fungal pathogens) will give invasive plant species a fitness advantage in the alien range, via shifts in root traits (e.g., increased specific root length and branching intensity) that increase resource uptake and competitive ability compared to native species in the alien range, and compared to plants of the invader in its native range. Such root-trait changes could be ecological or evolutionary in nature. I explain how shifts in root traits could occur as a consequence of enemy release and contribute to invasion success of alien plants, and how they could be interrelated with other potential belowground drivers of invasion success (allelopathy, mutualist enhancement). Finally, I outline the approaches that could be taken to test whether belowground enemy release results in increased competitive ability and nutrient uptake by invasive alien plants, via changes in root traits in the alien range.