loading page

The EICA is dead? Long live the EICA!
  • +1
  • Ray Callaway,
  • José Hierro,
  • Christopher lortie,
  • Jacob Lucero
Ray Callaway
University of Montana

Corresponding Author:[email protected]

Author Profile
José Hierro
Consejo Nacional de Investigaciones Científicas y Técnicas-Universidad Nacional de La Pampa
Author Profile
Christopher lortie
York University
Author Profile
Jacob Lucero
New Mexico State University
Author Profile


An important hypothesis for how plants respond to introduction to new ranges is the evolution of increased competitive ability (EICA). EICA predicts that biogeographical release from natural enemies initiates a tradeoff in which exotic species in non-native ranges become larger and more competitive, but invest less in consumer defenses, relative to populations in native ranges. This tradeoff is exceptionally complex because detecting concomitant biogeographical shifts in competitive ability and consumer defense depend upon which traits are targeted, how competition is measured, the defense chemicals quantified, whether defense chemicals do more than defend, whether “herbivory” is artificial or natural, and where consumers fall on the generalist-specialist spectrum. Previous meta-analyses have successfully identified patterns but have yet to fully disentangle this complexity. We used meta-analysis to reevaluate traditional metrics used to test EICA theory and then expanded on these metrics by partitioning competitive effect and competitive tolerance measures and testing Leaf Specific Mass in detail as a response trait. Unlike previous syntheses, our meta-analyses detected evidence consistent with the classic tradeoff inherent to EICA. Plants from non-native ranges imposed greater competitive effects than plants from native ranges and were less quantitatively defended than plants from native ranges. Our results for defense were not based on complex leaf chemistry, but instead were estimated from tannins, toughness traits, and primarily Leaf Specific Mass. Species specificity occurred but did not influence the general patterns. As for all evidence for EICA-like tradeoffs, we do not know if the biogeographical differences we found were caused by tradeoffs per se, but they are consistent with predictions derived from the overarching hypothesis. Underestimating physical leaf structure may have contributed to two decades of tepid perspectives on the tradeoffs fundamental to EICA.
14 Jul 2022Submitted to Ecology Letters
15 Jul 2022Assigned to Editor
15 Jul 2022Submission Checks Completed
16 Jul 2022Editorial Decision: Accept
Oct 2022Published in Ecology Letters volume 25 issue 10 on pages 2289-2302. 10.1111/ele.14088