Globally, exotic invaders threaten biodiversity and ecosystem function. Studies often report that invading plants are less affected by enemies in their invaded vs home ranges, but few studies have investigated the underlying mechanisms. Here, we investigated the variation in prevalence, species composition and virulence of soil-borne Pythium pathogens associated with the tree Prunus serotina in its native US and non-native European ranges by culturing, DNA sequencing and controlled pathogenicity trials. Two controlled pathogenicity experiments showed that Pythium pathogens from the native range caused 38 462% more root rot and 80 583% more seedling mortality, and 19 45% less biomass production than Pythium from the non-native range. DNA sequencing indicated that the most virulent Pythium taxa were sampled only from the native range. The greater virulence of Pythium sampled from the native range therefore corresponded to shifts in species composition across ranges rather than variation within a common Pythium species. Prunus serotina still encounters Pythium in its non-native range but encounters less virulent taxa. Elucidating patterns of enemy virulence in native and nonnative ranges adds to our understanding of how invasive plants escape disease. Moreover, this strategy may identify resident enemies in the non-native range that could be used to manage invasive plants.
Reinhart, K. O., Tytgat, T. O. G., Van der Putten, W. H., & Clay, K. A. (2010). Virulence of soil-borne pathogens and invasion by Prunus serotina. New Phytologist, 186(2), 484-495. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1469-8137.2009.03159.x