The degree to which biotic interactions influence invasion success may partly depend on the evolutionary relationship between invaders and native species. In particular, since host-use by enemies such as invertebrate herbivores and fungal pathogens tends to be phylogenetically conserved, exotic plants that have close native relatives in the invaded range should be more likely to interact with enemies. In this thesis, I explore this idea using a series of experiments and field surveys at nested taxonomic levels.
My results indicate that exotics from multiple plant families experience lower damage if their average phylogenetic distance from locally co-occurring native family members is higher. I then demonstrate that within the Asteraceae, foliar and capitular damage are lower on exotic compared to native species. Both damage types had a relatively large phylogenetic component, but did not decline with phylogenetic distance to native or exotic confamilials. Finally, I show that communities with versus without close relatives are unlikely to differ in resistance to the novel invader, Solidago virgaurea: biotic resistance imposed by competitors, generalist vertebrates, and specialist invertebrates resulted in similar patterns of damage and mortality regardless of the presence of congeneric natives. In some cases, effects of biota were positive: growth of S. virgaurea seedlings in soils collected near congeneric natives was enhanced more than in soils from communities where congenerics were absent.
Overall, these results suggest that biotic interactions between exotic and native species can be phylogenetically structured, although trends based on distance measures tend to be weak. In some cases, damage does decline with phylogenetic distance to native species; however this trend is unlikely to be a strong force limiting invasion or structuring plant communities. These results have significant implications for current theories of invasion biology including the "Enemy Release Hypothesis" and "Darwin's Naturalization Hypothesis", as well as for community phylogenetics.