Contrasting effects of an invasive ant on a native and an invasive plant

Lach, Lori, Tillberg, Chadwick V., and Suarez, Andrew V. (2010) Contrasting effects of an invasive ant on a native and an invasive plant. Biological Invasions, 12 (9). pp. 3123-3133.

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When invasive species establish in new environments, they may disrupt existing or create new interactions with resident species. Understanding of the functioning of invaded ecosystems will benefit from careful investigation of resulting species-level interactions. We manipulated ant visitation to compare how invasive ant mutualisms affect two common plants, one native and one invasive, on a sub-tropical Indian Ocean island. Technomyrmex albipes, an introduced species, was the most common and abundant ant visitor to the plants. T. albipes were attracted to extrafloral nectaries on the invasive tree (Leucaena leucocephala) and deterred the plant’s primary herbivore, the Leucaena psyllid (Heteropsylla cubana). Ant exclusion from L. leucocephala resulted in decreased plant growth and seed production by 22% and 35%, respectively. In contrast, on the native shrub (Scaevola taccada), T. albipes frequently tended sap-sucking hemipterans, and ant exclusion resulted in 30% and 23% increases in growth and fruit production, respectively. Stable isotope analysis confirmed the more predacious and herbivorous diets of T. albipes on the invasive and native plants, respectively. Thus the ants’ interactions protect the invasive plant from its main herbivore while also exacerbating the effects of herbivores on the native plant. Ultimately, the negative effects on the native plant and positive effects on the invasive plant may work in concert to facilitate invasion by the invasive plant. Our findings underscore the importance of investigating facilitative interactions in a community context and the multiple and diverse interactions shaping novel ecosystems.

Item ID: 28410
Item Type: Article (Research - C1)
ISSN: 1573-1464
Keywords: ant mutualisms, extrafloral nectaries, enemy release, herbivory, honeydew, trophic position
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Article freely available from publisher website.

Date Deposited: 03 Sep 2013 23:41
FoR Codes: 05 ENVIRONMENTAL SCIENCES > 0501 Ecological Applications > 050103 Invasive Species Ecology @ 80%
06 BIOLOGICAL SCIENCES > 0602 Ecology > 060201 Behavioural Ecology @ 10%
06 BIOLOGICAL SCIENCES > 0608 Zoology > 060808 Invertebrate Biology @ 10%
SEO Codes: 96 ENVIRONMENT > 9608 Flora, Fauna and Biodiversity > 960802 Coastal and Estuarine Flora, Fauna and Biodiversity @ 80%
96 ENVIRONMENT > 9604 Control of Pests, Diseases and Exotic Species > 960402 Control of Animal Pests, Diseases and Exotic Species in Coastal and Estuarine Environments @ 20%
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