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Comparison of phenolic compounds and the effects of invasive and native species in East Asia: Support for the novel weapons hypothesis

January 1, 2011

One prediction of the novel weapons hypothesis (NWH) for the dominance of exotic invasive plant species is that the allelopathic effects of successful invaders will, in general, be more biochemically inhibitory to native species and microbes in invaded regions than the native plants themselves. However, no study has compared biochemical concentrations, compositions, or effects of large numbers of native species to those of large numbers of invasive species. In this context we tested the allelopathic and antimicrobial potentials of nine native plant species and nine invasive species in East Asia by comparing their broad phenolic contents and the effects of extracts made from each of the species on target plants and soil fungi. Three of the invasive species, including Eupatorium rugosum, had higher concentrations of total phenolic compounds than any of the native species, and the mean concentration of total phenolics for invasive species was 2.6 times greater than the mean for native species. Only scopoletin was novel to the invasive species, being found in all of nine invasive species, but not in the native species. More importantly, the effects of the total suites of phenolic compounds produced by invasive species differed from the effects of phenolics produced by natives. Extracts of invasive species reduced radicle growth of the three test plant species by 60-80%, but extracts of native species reduced radicle growth by only 30-50%. Extracts of invasive species reduced shoot growth of the three test species by 20-40%, but the overall effect of native species' extract was to stimulate shoot growth. The antimicrobial activity of invasive species was also significantly higher than that of native species. It should be noted that phenolics are just one component of a plant's potential allelopathic arsenal and non-phenolic compounds are likely to play a role in the total extract effect. For example, extracts of P. americana contained the lowest levels of phenolic compounds, but exhibited the strongest inhibition effect. We could not determine whether the greater inhibitory effects of the extracts from invasive species were due to novel combinations of chemicals or higher concentrations of chemicals, but our results are consistent with the predictions of the NWH. ?? 2010 The Ecological Society of Japan.

Citation Information

Publication Year 2011
Title Comparison of phenolic compounds and the effects of invasive and native species in East Asia: Support for the novel weapons hypothesis
DOI 10.1007/s11284-010-0762-7
Authors Y.-O. Kim, E.J. Lee
Publication Type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Series Title Ecological Research
Series Number
Index ID 70034212
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization