Creating novel food webs on introduced Australian acacias: Indirect effects of galling biological control agents
Aim The use of host-specific biological control agents is widely considered an effective option for the management of invasive alien plant species. However, the formation of novel associations between released biological control agents and indigenous species poses risks. Here, we investigate whether native food webs associated with two galling biological control agents on Acacia longifolia and A. saligna are similar to those found in their introduced range. Location Gall inhabitants recorded from South Africa and Australia. Methods Non-targeted insects were collected from galls in introduced ranges for comparisons to that of the agents' native ranges. Results We find that two host plant-specific galling biological control agents accumulate food web links with higher trophic levels in their introduced range that are similar in number, taxonomic/phylogenetic pattern and guild composition to those in their native range. Bray-Curtis percentage similarity between native (Australia) and novel (South Africa) food webs was 30-50% and 50-75% at the family and superfamily taxonomic level, respectively, and 45-50% if considering shared phylogenetic diversity. Main conclusions Trichilogaster acaciaelongifoliae and Uromycladium tepperianum accumulated food webs in South Africa that are strikingly similar in complexity and structure to those that occur in their native ranges. This indicates that the structure of food webs in the introduced range could be predicted by studying food webs in the native range of a biological control agent, potentially paving the way for more effective risk assessment of weed biological control. © 2011 Blackwell Publishing Ltd.