Climate Warming Can Reduce Biocontrol Efficacy and Promote Plant Invasion Due to Both Genetic and Transient Metabolomic Changes
Climate change may affect plant–herbivore interactions and their associated ecosystem functions. In an experimental evolution approach, we subjected replicated populations of the invasive Ambrosia artemisiifolia to a combination of simulated warming and herbivory by a potential biocontrol beetle. We tracked genomic and metabolomic changes across generations in field populations and assessed plant offspring phenotypes in a common environment. Using an integrated Bayesian model, we show that increased offspring biomass in response to warming arose through changes in the genetic composition of populations. In contrast, increased resistance to herbivory arose through a shift in plant metabolomic profiles without genetic changes, most likely by transgenerational induction of defences. Importantly, while increased resistance was costly at ambient temperatures, warming removed this constraint and favoured both vigorous and better defended plants under biocontrol. Climate warming may thus decrease biocontrol efficiency and promote Ambrosia invasion, with potentially serious economic and health consequences.