skip to main content

Title: Phylogenetic risk assessment is robust for forecasting the impact of European insects on North American conifers
Abstract Some introduced species cause severe damage, although the majority have little impact. Robust predictions of which species are most likely to cause substantial impacts could focus efforts to mitigate those impacts or prevent certain invasions entirely. Introduced herbivorous insects can reduce crop yield, fundamentally alter natural and managed forest ecosystems, and are unique among invasive species in that they require certain host plants to succeed. Recent studies have demonstrated that understanding the evolutionary history of introduced herbivores and their host plants can provide robust predictions of impact. Specifically, divergence times between hosts in the native and introduced ranges of a nonnative insect can be used to predict the potential impact of the insect should it establish in a novel ecosystem. However, divergence time estimates vary among published phylogenetic datasets, making it crucial to understand if and how the choice of phylogeny affects prediction of impact. Here, we tested the robustness of impact prediction to variation in host phylogeny by using insects that feed on conifers and predicting the likelihood of high impact using four different published phylogenies. Our analyses ranked 62 insects that are not established in North America and 47 North American conifer species according to overall risk and vulnerability, respectively. We found that results were robust to the choice of phylogeny. Although published vascular plant phylogenies continue to be refined, our analysis indicates that those differences are not substantial enough to alter the predictions of invader impact. Our results can assist in focusing biosecurity programs for conifer pests and can be more generally applied to nonnative insects and their potential hosts by prioritizing surveillance for those insects most likely to be damaging invaders.  more » « less
Award ID(s):
Author(s) / Creator(s):
; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ;
Garnas, Jeff R.
Publisher / Repository:
John Wiley & Sons Ltd.
Date Published:
Journal Name:
Ecological Applications
Medium: X
Sponsoring Org:
National Science Foundation
More Like this
  1. Abstract

    Species range expansion induced by climate change and human activities threaten native populations and communities across the biosphere. Insect herbivores, important consumers of plants, are known to expand or contract their range under global change, with potential consequences to the newly reached environment. The selection of oviposition sites by herbivorous insects could notably impact offspring performance. However, the role of such effects in impacting the receiving ecosystem has been rarely explored. Here, we provide the first evidence showing that a terrestrial range‐expanding phytophagous wood‐borer moth (Zeuzera leuconotumButler) heavily attacked the saplings of a foundation plant species tamarisk (Tamarix chinensis) in salt marshes. Long‐term field surveys and laboratory behaviour experiments revealed that the oviposition preference of adult females was beneficial to their larval performance. The preference to oviposit on young branches of the new host plants, which were often softer and contained enough nutrients for larval development, indicates that females could still make the right choice on novel host‐plants. This finding supports the ‘mother knows best’ hypothesis that female insects will evolve to oviposit on hosts on which their offspring fare best. Consequently, the survival of host‐plant saplings decreased dramatically under this top‐down control, revealing that herbivory of this range‐expanding insect has a profound negative impact on the recruitment and succession of coastal foundation species, thereby potentially leading to saltmarsh degradation. These findings highlight the importance of the maternal oviposition effects in range‐expanding insects and how these populations can establish using novel host‐plants and threaten coastal wetlands.

    more » « less
  2. Assessing the ecological and economic impacts of non-native species is crucial to providing managers and policymakers with the information necessary to respond effectively. Most non-native species have minimal impacts on the environment in which they are introduced, but a small fraction are highly deleterious. The definition of ‘damaging’ or ‘high-impact’ varies based on the factors determined to be valuable by an individual or group, but interpretations of whether non-native species meet particular definitions can be influenced by the interpreter’s bias or level of expertise, or lack of group consensus. Uncertainty or disagreement about an impact classification may delay or otherwise adversely affect policymaking on management strategies. One way to prevent these issues would be to have a detailed, nine-point impact scale that would leave little room for interpretation and then divide the scale into agreed upon categories, such as low, medium, and high impact. Following a previously conducted, exhaustive search regarding non-native, conifer-specialist insects, the authors independently read the same sources and scored the impact of 41 conifer-specialist insects to determine if any variation among assessors existed when using a detailed impact scale. Each of the authors, who were selected to participate in the working group associated with this study because of their diverse backgrounds, also provided their level of expertise and uncertainty for each insect evaluated. We observed 85% congruence in impact rating among assessors, with 27% of the insects having perfect inter-rater agreement. Variance in assessment peaked in insects with a moderate impact level, perhaps due to ambiguous information or prior assessor perceptions of these specific insect species. The authors also participated in a joint fact-finding discussion of two insects with the most divergent impact scores to isolate potential sources of variation in assessor impact scores. We identified four themes that could be experienced by impact assessors: ambiguous information, discounted details, observed versus potential impact, and prior knowledge. To improve consistency in impact decision-making, we encourage groups to establish a detailed scale that would allow all observed and published impacts to fall under a particular score, provide clear, reproducible guidelines and training, and use consensus-building techniques when necessary. 
    more » « less
  3. Diseases and insects, particularly those that are non-native and invasive, arguably pose the most destructive threat to North American forests. Currently, both exotic and native insects and diseases are producing extensive ecological damage and economic impacts. As part of an effort to identify United States tree species and forests most vulnerable to these epidemics, we compiled a list of the most serious insect and disease threats for 419 native tree species and assigned a severity rating for each of the 1378 combinations between mature tree hosts and 339 distinct insect and disease agents. We then joined this list with data from a spatially unbiased and nationally consistent forest inventory to assess the potential ecological impacts of insect and disease infestations. Specifically, potential host species mortality for each host/agent combination was used to weight species importance values on approximately 132,000 Forest Inventory and Analysis (FIA) plots across the conterminous 48 United States. When summed on each plot, these weighted importance values represent an estimate of the proportion of the plot’s existing importance value at risk of being lost. These plot estimates were then used to identify statistically significant geographic hotspots and coldspots and of potential forest impacts associated with insects and diseases in total, and for different agent types. In general, the potential impacts of insects and diseases were greater in the West, where there are both fewer agents and less diverse forests. The impact of non-native invasive agents, however, was potentially greater in the East. Indeed, the impacts of current exotic pests could be greatly magnified across much of the Eastern United States if these agents are able to reach the entirety of their hosts’ ranges. Both the list of agent/host severities and the spatially explicit results can inform species-level vulnerability assessments and broad-scale forest sustainability reporting efforts, and should provide valuable information for decision-makers who need to determine which tree species and locations to target for monitoring efforts and pro-active management activities. 
    more » « less
  4. Abstract

    Host plant shifts are central to diversification in insect herbivores. Many mechanisms can cause host shifts in insects, but one relatively unexplored mechanism is whole‐genome duplication (WGD) in the host plant. WGD, or polyploidy, is common in plants and causes spontaneous changes in physiology, morphology, and palatability that could impact the ability of herbivores to feed and develop on newly formed polyploids (neopolyploids).

    Here the authors tested if WGD affected the preference and performance of the specialist aphid,Acyrthosiphon pisum(pea aphids). Pea aphids seasonally form specialised lineages or ‘host forms’ on many host plant species including alfalfa and red clover. Aphid host forms on alfalfa and red clover naturally exist on different cytotypes of their respective hosts, with red clover aphids feeding on diploid clover and alfalfa aphids feeding on tetraploid alfalfa. Therefore, the authors predicted that these host forms would have a higher preference for and performance on their respective natal host cytotype.

    Neither host form exhibited a preference for a particular cytotype, but there were modest changes in aphid performance based on host cytotype. Specifically, aphids specialised to red clover had higher fecundity on diploid red clover than on neotetraploid red clover. Together, these results showed that both host forms were able to recognise and accept different cytotypes of the two host species, but only one host form experienced trade‐offs in performance when feeding on neotetraploids. These results suggest that WGD may act as a mechanism of host expansion in pea aphids as plants speciate via WGD.

    more » « less
  5. Abstract

    An outstanding issue in the study of insect host races concerns the idea of ‘recursive adaptive divergence’, whereby adaptation can occur repeatedly across space and/or time, and the most recent adaptive episode is defined by one or more previously similar cases. The host plant shift of the apple maggot fly,Rhagoletis pomonella(Walsh) (Diptera: Tephritidae, Carpomyini), from ancestral downy hawthorn [Crataegus mollis(Torr. & A. Gray) Scheele] to introduced, domesticated apple (Malus domesticaBorkh.) in the eastern USA has long served as a model system for investigating ecologically driven host race formation in phytophagous insect specialists. Here, we report results from an annual geography survey of eclosion time demonstrating a similar ecological pattern among nascent host‐associated populations of the fly recently introduced ca. 40 years ago from its native range in the east into the Pacific Northwest (PNW) region of the USA. Specifically, using data collected from 25 locations across 5 years, we show that apple‐infesting fly populations in the PNW have rapidly and repeatedly shifted (and maintained differences in) their adult eclosion life‐history timing to infest two novel hawthorn hosts with different fruiting phenologies – a native species (Crataegus douglasiiLindl.) and an introduced species (Crataegus monogynaJacq.) – generating partial allochronic reproductive isolation in the process. The shifts in the PNW parallel the classic case of host race formation in the eastern USA, but have occurred bi‐directionally to two hawthorn species with phenologies slightly earlier (black hawthorn) and significantly later (ornamental hawthorn) than apple. Our results imply thatR. pomonellacan both possess and retain extensive‐standing variation (i.e., ‘adaptive memory’) in diapause traits, even following introductions, to rapidly and temporally track novel phenological host opportunities when they arise. Thus, ‘specialized’ host races may not constitute evolutionary dead ends. Rather, adaptive phenotypic and genetic memory may carry over from one host shift to the next, recursively facilitating host race formation in phytophagous insects.

    more » « less