Trade-offs in non-native plant herbivore defences enhance performance

Xiao Sun, Yumei Sun, Xueyao Cao, Xincong Zhai, Ragan M. Callaway, Jinlong Wan, S. Luke Flory, Wei Huang, Jianqing Ding

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


Non-native plants are typically released from specialist enemies but continue to be attacked by generalists, albeit at lower intensities. This reduced herbivory may lead to less investment in constitutive defences and greater investment in induced defences, potentially reducing defence costs. We compared herbivory on 27 non-native and 59 native species in the field and conducted bioassays and chemical analyses on 12 pairs of non-native and native congeners. Non-natives suffered less damage and had weaker constitutive defences, but stronger induced defences than natives. For non-natives, the strength of constitutive defences was correlated with the intensity of herbivory experienced, whereas induced defences showed the reverse. Investment in induced defences correlated positively with growth, suggesting a novel mechanism for the evolution of increased competitive ability. To our knowledge, these are the first linkages reported among trade-offs in plant defences related to the intensity of herbivory, allocation to constitutive versus induced defences, and growth.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1584-1596
Number of pages13
JournalEcology Letters
Issue number9
StatePublished - Sep 2023


  • constitutive defence
  • growth
  • herbivore pressure
  • induced defence
  • non-native plant invasion
  • Herbivory
  • Plants
  • Plant Physiological Phenomena


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