Molly Kuhs, Claudia Stein, Tiffany Knight, Scott Mangan
Understanding the processes that drive invasions is a major goal in ecology and crucial to develop successful restoration projects. Patterns of phylogenetic relatedness within communities have been widely used to infer the importance of different ecological and evolutionary processes during community assembly and invasion processes. Invasion success of novel exotic plants could be due to the low niche overlap with resident plant species or to novel defense traits. An expectation that is in line with the enemy release hypothesis which states that exotic plant species can become invasive as they leave specialist enemies behind and experience a reduced attack by generalist consumers in their introduced range. In collaboration with Dr. Tiffany Knight, we combine field and greenhouse experiments to test the importance of belowground arthropods and fungi for population dynamics of exotic plant species that vary in their phylogenetic relatedness to native plant species.