Aim Biological invasions are today the second-largest global threat for biodiversity. Once introduced, exotic plant species can modify ecosystem composition, structure and dynamics, eventually driving native species to local extinction. Among the groups of organisms, most likely to be directly affected by exotic invasive plants are herbivorous insects, such as butterflies, which strongly depend on plants throughout their life cycle. However, it remains unclear whether invasive plants have a negative or a positive effect on butterfly diversity at a landscape scale.

Location Switzerland.

Methods Using an extensive inventory (393 sites across Switzerland) of both butterfly and invasive plants, we explore the impact of 31 invasive black listed plant species on local butterfly richness. We further identify each butterfly species’ response to invasive plants (i.e. positive, neutral or negative) and analyse the functional and phylogenetic characteristics of these different groups of species.

Results Our results indicate that butterfly richness negatively correlates with an increase in invasive plant richness. When studying the individual response of each butterfly species to the number of invasive plants, we found that no single butterfly is profiting from invasive plant species, while 28 butterfly species (24%) suffer from the presence of invasive plants. We further show that the species negatively affected are on average less mobile than the unaffected species and that they are phylogenetically clustered.

Main conclusions Our results present evidences of the influence of invasive species on other trophic levels and interaction networks. We further highlight that a lack of management efforts for mitigating invasive plant impacts threatens specific sections of the functional and phylogenetic diversity of butterflies.

Gallien, L., Altermatt, F., Wiemers, M., Schweiger, O., & Zimmermann, N. E. (2017). Invasive plants threaten the least mobile butterflies in Switzerland. Diversity and Distributions, 23(2), 185–195.