Insect Herbivory and propagule pressure influence Cirsium vulgare invasiveness across the landscape

James O. Eckberg, Brigitte Tenhumberg, Svata M. Louda

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

12 Scopus citations


A current challenge in ecology is to better understand the magnitude, variation, and interaction in the factors that limit the invasiveness of exotic species. We conducted a factorial experiment involving herbivore manipulation (insecticide-in-water vs. water-only control) and seven densities of introduced nonnative Cirsium vulgare (bull thistle) seed. The experiment was repeated with two seed cohorts at eight grassland sites uninvaded by C. vulgare in the central Great Plains, USA. Herbivory by native insects significantly reduced thistle seedling density, causing the largest reductions in density at the highest propagule inputs. The magnitude of this herbivore effect varied widely among sites and between cohort years. The combination of herbivory and lower propagule pressure increased the rate at which new C. vulgare populations failed to establish during the initial stages of invasion. This experiment demonstrates that the interaction between biotic resistance by native insects, propagule pressure, and spatiotemporal variation in their effects were crucial to the initial invasion by this Eurasian plant in the western tallgrass prairie.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1787-1794
Number of pages8
Issue number8
StatePublished - Aug 2012
Externally publishedYes


  • Bull thistle
  • Cirsium vulgare
  • Insect-plant interaction
  • Invasive species
  • Plant invasion
  • Plant population dynamics
  • Spear thistle
  • Weed
  • Weed dynamics


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