Ecology and evolution in invasive plants

Invasion ecology, the study of the distribution and spread of organisms in habitats to which they are not native, has received considerable attention during the past decades. This is mainly a consequence of the increased awareness of the major threats posed by invasions to biodiversity, ecosystem integrity, agriculture and human health. Non-native species have become integral components of ecosystems world-wide, and understanding the causes and consequences of biological invasions has emerged as a fundamental challenge to ecologists and evolutionary biologists. Evidence is increasing that invasive plants can undergo rapid adaptive evolution during the process of range expansion. We expect that evolutionary change during invasions will affect plant-antagonist interactions and thus have important implications for biological control programs targeted at invasive plants. We specifically explore how altered selection in the new range might influence the evolution of plant defense (resistance and tolerance) and life cycle and how this might affect subsequent biological control efficacy.


Recent Publications

  • In-season leaf damage by a biocontrol agent explains reproductive output of an invasive plant species
    Augustinus, Benno A.; Lommen, Suzanne T. E.; Fogliatto, Silvia; Vidotto, Francesco; Smith, Tessa; et al.
    Neobiota 55: 117-146 DOI: 10.3897/neobiota.55.46874   Published: APR 6 2020
  • Biological weed control to relieve millions from Ambrosia allergies in Europe
    Schaffner, Urs; Steinbach, Sandro; Sun, Yan; Skjoth, Carsten A.; de Weger, Letty A.; et al.
    Nature Communications 11(1) DOI: 10.1038/s41467-020-15586-1 Published: APR 21 2020
  • Phylogenetic diversity is a better predictor of wetland community resistance to Alternanthera philoxeroides invasion than species richness
    Qin, T-J; Zhou, J.; Sun, Y.; Mueller-Schaerer, H.; Luo, F-L; et al.
    Plant Biology  DOI: 10.1111/plb.13101 Early Access: MAR 2020
  • Invasion syndromes: a systematic approach for predicting biological invasions and facilitating effective management
    Novoa, Ana; Richardson, David M.; Pysek, Petr; Meyerson, Laura A.; Bacher, Sven; et al.
    Biological Invasions 10.1007/s10530-020-02220-w Early Access: MAR 2020
  • Isolation of 12 polymorphic tetranucleotide microsatellite markers of the leaf beetle Ophraella communa, a promising Ambrosia biocontrol agent also in Europe
    Bordeyne, Francois; Mueller-Schaerer, Heinz; Bouchemousse, Sarah
    Biocontrol Science And Technology,  DOI: 10.1080/09583157.2019.1695103   FEB 2020
  • Predicting abundances of invasive ragweed across Europe using a "top-down" approach
    Skjoth, CA; Sun, Y; Karrer, G; Sikoparija, B; Smith, M; Schaffner, U; Muller-Scharer, H
    SCIENCE OF THE TOTAL ENVIRONMENT, 686 212-222; 10.1016/j.scitotenv.2019.05.215 OCT 10 2019
  • Do invasive alien plants differ from non-invasives in dominance and nitrogen uptake in response to variation of abiotic and biotic environments under global anthropogenic change?
    Liu, YY; Sun, Y; Muller-Scharer, H; Yan, R; Zhou, ZX; Wang, YJ; Yu, FH
    SCIENCE OF THE TOTAL ENVIRONMENT, 672 634-642; 10.1016/j.scitotenv.2019.04.024 JUL 1 2019
  • Sympatric diploid and tetraploid cytotypes of Centaurea stoebe s.l. do not differ in arbuscular mycorrhizal communities and mycorrhizal growth response
    Sudova, R; Kohout, P; Kolarikova, Z; Rydlova, J; Voriskova, J; Suda, J; Spaniel, S; Muller-Scharer, H; Mraz, P
    AMERICAN JOURNAL OF BOTANY, 105 (12):1995-2007; 10.1002/ajb2.1206 DEC 2018
  • Cross-fertilizing weed science and plant invasion science to improve efficient management: A European challenge
    Muller-Scharer, H; Sun, Y; Chauvel, B; Karrer, G; Kazinczi, G; Kudsk, P; Oude, AGJML; Schaffner, U; Skjoth, CA; Smith, M; Vurro, M; de Weger, LA; Lommen, STE
    BASIC AND APPLIED ECOLOGY, 33 1-13; 10.1016/j.baae.2018.08.003 DEC 2018
  • Estimating economic benefits of biological control of Ambrosia artemisiifolia by Ophraella communa in southeastern France
    Mouttet, R; Augustinus, B; Bonini, M; Chauvel, B; Desneux, N; Gachet, E; Le Bourgeois, T; Muller-Scharer, H; Thibaudon, M; Schaffner, U
    BASIC AND APPLIED ECOLOGY, 33 14-24; 10.1016/j.baae.2018.08.002 DEC 2018
  • Deciphering the biology of Cryptophyllachora eurasiatica gen. et sp nov., an often cryptic pathogen of an allergenic weed, Ambrosia artemisiifolia
    Kiss, Levente; Kovacs, Gabor M.; Boka, Karoly; et al.
    SCIENTIFIC REPORTS 8, Article Number: 10806, 10.1038/s41598-018-29102-5,  JUL 17 2018
  • Time to cut: population models reveal how to mow invasive common ragweed cost-effectively
    Lommen, Suzanne T. E.; Jongejans, Eelke; Leitsch-Vitalos, Melinda; et al.
    NEOBIOTA 39:53-78 JUN 27 2018
Heinz Müller-Schärer

Prof. Dr. Heinz Müller-Schärer
University of Fribourg
Department of Biology
1700 Fribourg

Tel: +41 (0)26 300 88 35

Research topics

  • Polyploidy and invasion success
  • Sustainable management of weeds and plant invaders (Centaurea, Ambrosia, Rumex)
  • Biological control of invasive plants using insects and fungi
  • Local adaptation and trophic interaction



  • Biological invasions
  • Biodiversity restoration
  • Plant-pathogen/insect interactions
  • Plant ecology and evolution
  • Local adaptations in plants