European buckthorn and Asian soybean aphid as components of an extensive invasional meltdown in North America

George E. Heimpel, Lee E. Frelich, Douglas A. Landis, Keith R. Hopper, Kim A. Hoelmer, Zeynep Sezen, Mark K. Asplen, Kongming Wu

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135 Scopus citations


We consider the possibility of an extensive invasional meltdown occurring in central North America involving eleven Eurasian species. The scenario begins with the potential co-facilitation between the European earthworm Lumbricus terrestris and European buckthorn, Rhamnus cathartica. Once introduced, European buckthorn has served as the overwintering host for two important invasive crop pests, oat crown rust, Puccinea coronata and the soybean aphid, Aphis glycines. The spread of R. cathartica itself may have been aided by seed dispersal by the European starling, Sturnus vulgaris, and the presence of L. terrestris has likely facilitated the invasion of Bipalium adventitium, an Asian predatory flatworm that specializes on earthworms. Beyond this, the soybean aphid is consumed by a number of introduced species, including the lady beetle Harmonia axyridis, the ground beetle Agonum muelleri and the parasitoid Aphelinus certus. We hypothesize that the presence of soybean aphid increases regional abundances of these species. We discuss both the evidence for this multi-species invasional meltdown scenario and potential implications of meltdown dynamics for invasive species management. The particular management issues that we discuss are: (1) opportunities for managing multiple invasive species simultaneously by targeting facilitator species, and (2) implications of meltdown dynamics for biological control introductions against the soybean aphid.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2913-2931
Number of pages19
JournalBiological Invasions
Issue number9
StatePublished - 2010

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Acknowledgments We thank Sarah Gunderson, Simon Lueth and Yanhui Li for help with field experiments, Stuart Gage for sharing his long-term data set on coccinellids at the Kellogg Biological Station LTER site, Mary Gardiner and Jonathan Lundgren for sharing unpublished information, and two anonymous reviewers for suggestions on the manuscript. GEH and SZ were supported in part by a grant from the North Central Soybean Research Council, the Minnesota Soybean Research and Promotion Council and the University of Minnesota Agricultural Experiment Station. LEF was supported in part by the Jonathan and Lois Bishop fund of the Minneapolis Foundation. DAL was supported in part by the USDA National Research Initiative, NSF Long Term Ecological Research Program, MSU Environmental Research Initiative, and the Michigan Agricultural Experiment station. MKA was supported in part by a grant from the USDA North Central Regional IPM Program. The sketches in Fig. 1 were drawn by Julie Martinez with support from the Minnesota Futures program at the University of Minnesota.


  • Agonum muelleri
  • Aphelinus certus
  • Aphis glycines
  • Binodoxys communis
  • Bipalium adventitium
  • Harmonia axyridis
  • Invasional meltdown
  • Lumbricus terrestris
  • Puccinia coronata
  • Rhamnus cathartica
  • Sturnus vulgaris


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