Ecological disequilibrium drives insect pest and pathogen accumulation in non-native trees

Casparus J. Crous*, Treena I. Burgess, Johannes J. Le Roux, David M. Richardson, Bernard Slippers, Michael J. Wingfield

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

46 Citations (Scopus)
47 Downloads (Pure)


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 examinewhich 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 seemto hold for native insects. Native insects appear farmore 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 ecoevolutionary 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 andmanagement practices.

Original languageEnglish
Article numberplw081
Pages (from-to)1-16
Number of pages16
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2017
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Copyright the Author(s) 2016. Version archived for private and non-commercial use with the permission of the author/s and according to publisher conditions. For further rights please contact the publisher.


  • acacia
  • biological control
  • biological invasions
  • biosecurity
  • eco-evolutionary experience
  • eucalyptus
  • herbivore host-shifting
  • phylogenetic relatedness
  • pinus


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