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

  • High Phenotypic Plasticity in a Prominent Plant Invader along Altitudinal and Temperature Gradients
    Gentili, Rodolfo; Ambrosini, Roberto; Augustinus, Benno A.; Caronni, Sarah; Cardarelli, Elisa; et al.
    Plants-basel 10.3390/plants10102144  OCT 2021
  • Population differentiation in response to temperature in Ophraella communa: Implication for the biological control of Ambrosia artemisiifolia
    Litto, Maria; Bouchemousse, Sarah; Schaffner, Urs; Mueller-Schaerer, Heinz
    Biological Control DOI 10.1016/j.biocontrol.2021.104777, DEC 2021
  • Absence of genetic differentiation in performance traits of Sinapis arvensis populations from crop and non-crop habitats across Northern Algeria: Implications for management
    Benchaa, Sara; Bouchemousse, Sarah; Abdelkrim, Hacene; Mueller-Schaerer, Heinz
    Weed Research DOI10.1111/wre.12481  AUG 2021
  • Bean cultivar mixture allows reduced herbicide dose while maintaining high yield: A step towards more eco-friendly weed management
    Oveisi, Mostafa; Kaleibar, Behnaz Pourmorad; Mashhadi, Hamid Rahimian; Mueller-Scharer, Heinz; Bagheri, Ali; et al.
    European Journal Of Agronomy,  DOI: 10.1016/j.eja.2020.126173  JAN 2021
  • Potential for endozoochorous seed dispersal by sheep and goats: Risk of weed seed transport via animal faeces
    Oveisi, Mostafa; Ojaghi, Ahmad; Rahimian Mashhadi, Hamid; Muller-Scharer, Heinz; Reza Yazdi, Kamran; et al.
    Weed Research,  DOI: 10.1111/wre.12461  FEB 2021
  • Is biocontrol efficacy rather driven by the plant or the antagonist genotypes? A conceptual bioassay approach
    Sun, Yan; Beuchat, Carine; Mueller-Schaerer, Heinz
    Neobiota,  DOI: 10.3897/neobiota.63.54962  DEC 8 2020
  • Rapid genomic and phenotypic change in response to climate warming in a widespread plant invader
    Sun, Yan; Bossdorf, Oliver; Grados, Ramon D.; Liao, ZhiYong; Mueller-Schaerer, Heinz
    Global Change Biology,  DOI: 10.1111/gcb.15291  NOV 2020
  • Assessing the risks of non-target feeding by the accidentally introduced ragweed leaf beetle, Ophraella communa, to native European plant species
    Augustinus, Benno Andreas; Gentili, Rodolfo; Horvath, David; Naderi, Ruhollah; Sun, Yan; et al.
    Biological Control,  DOI: 10.1016/j.biocontrol.2020.104356 NOV 2020
  • Genome Assembly of the Ragweed Leaf Beetle: A Step Forward to Better Predict Rapid Evolution of a Weed Biocontrol Agent to Environmental Novelties
    Bouchemousse, Sarah; Falquet, Laurent; Mueller-Scharer, Heinz
    Genome Biology And Evolution,  DOI: 10.1093/gbe/evaa102 JUL 2020
  • Editorial overview: Biological control of plant invaders: a continued stimulus and yet untapped potential to link and advance applied and basic research
    Mueller-Schaerer, Heinz; Schaffner, Urs
    Current Opinion In Insect Science  DOI: 10.1016/j.cois.2020.03.002 Published: APR 2020
  • How to better predict long-term benefits and risks in weed biocontrol: an evolutionary perspective
    Mueller-Schaerer, Heinz; Bouchemousse, Sarah; Litto, Maria; McEvoy, Peter B.; Roderick, George K.; et al.
    Current Opinion In Insect Science 38: 84-91  Published: APR 2020
  • 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
Heinz Müller-Schärer

Prof. em. 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