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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

Research Project: ECOLOGY AND MANAGEMENT OF GRASSHOPPERS AND OTHER INSECT PESTS IN THE NORTHERN GREAT PLAINS

Location: Pest Management Research Unit

Title: Exotic weevil invasion increases floral herbivore community density, function, and impact on a native plant

Authors
item RAND, TATYANA
item Louda, Svata -

Submitted to: Oikos
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: April 26, 2011
Publication Date: January 1, 2012
Repository URL: http://handle.nal.usda.gov/10113/54443
Citation: Rand, T.A., Louda, S. 2012. Exotic weevil invasion increases floral herbivore community density, function, and impact on a native plant. Oikos. 121(1): 85-94.

Interpretive Summary: Ecological communities are being re-arranged through unprecedented rates of human-caused species invasions and extinctions. Such changes in the composition and diversity of natural enemy communities potentially alter pressure and impact populations of species upon which they feed. Although invasions of plant feeding insect herbivores are common, and exotic herbivores continue to be deliberately introduced in weed biological control programs, the influence such “species additions” on native resident herbivore guilds, along with their individual and combined effects on native plant resource species, are rarely investigated. Here, we used natural patterns of site-to-site and plant-to-plant variation in herbivore composition to examine how the addition of an invasive weevil, Rhinocyllus conicus, combines with a guild of native floral herbivores (tephritid flies, pyralid moths) to influence aggregate herbivore densities (number of individuals per flower head) and rates of seed loss (percent seeds damaged) on a native thistle species, Cirsium canescens, across its range in midgrass prairie. We found that the presence of R. conicus at a site more than doubled combined herbivore density on native plants, resulting in significantly higher rates of seed damage and reduced seed production by native thistles. Individual plants attacked by R. conicus showed similar patterns of significantly higher insect densities and higher rates of seed damage compared to plants attacked only by native herbivores (flies and/or moths). Thus, adding a novel herbivore significantly increased the cumulative impact of floral herbivores on plant seed set. Insect densities and seed damage on plants attacked by multiple herbivore taxa never exceeded those observed for plants attacked by the invasive R. conicus alone, suggesting that increases in aggregate density and resource consumption with invasion resulted from the inclusion of a particularly dominant insect herbivore rather than any facilitation or complementarity effects among herbivore taxa. In fact, some evidence for interference between insect species emerged, with a trend towards reduced herbivore densities impacts on seed production when all three taxa attacked a given plant compared with plants attacked by R. conicus alone. Overall, the addition of a highly abundant and functionally dominant invasive herbivore dramatically altered community function, increasing both aggregate insect densities and rates of resource depletion, leading to strong negative impacts on seed production by a native plant.

Technical Abstract: Consumer communities are being re-arranged through unprecedented rates of human-mediated invasions and extinctions. Such changes in consumer composition and diversity potentially alter pressure and impact on resource populations. Although insect herbivore invasions are common, and exotic herbivores continue to be deliberately introduced in weed biological control programs, the influence such “species additions” on native resident herbivore guilds, along with their individual and combined effects on native plant resource species, are rarely investigated. Here, we used natural patterns of site-to-site and plant-to-plant variation in herbivore composition to examine how the addition of an invasive weevil, Rhinocyllus conicus, combines with a guild of native floral herbivores (tephritid flies, pyralid moths) to influence aggregate herbivore densities and rates of seed loss on a native thistle species, Cirsium canescens, across its range in midgrass prairie. We found that invasion by R. conicus more than doubled aggregate floral herbivore density on native plants, resulting in significantly higher rates of seed damage and reduced seed production by native thistles at invaded sites. Individuals attacked by R. conicus showed similar patterns of significantly higher aggregate insect densities and higher rates of seed damage compared to plants attacked only by native herbivores. Thus, adding a novel herbivore to the floral guild significantly increased the cumulative impact of floral herbivores on plant reproductive success. Insect densities and seed damage on plants attacked by multiple herbivore taxa never exceeded those observed for plants attacked by R. conicus alone, suggesting that increases in aggregate density and resource consumption with invasion resulted from the inclusion of a particular functionally dominant insect herbivore rather than any facilitation or complementarity effects among herbivore taxa. In fact, some evidence for interference between insect species emerged, with a trend towards reduced herbivore impacts on seed production when all three taxa attacked a given plant compared with plants attacked by R. conicus alone. Overall, the addition of a highly abundant and functionally dominant invasive herbivore dramatically altered community function, increasing both aggregate insect densities and rates of resource depletion, leading to strong negative impacts on seed production by native thistles.

Last Modified: 8/27/2014
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