Biological Invasions

, Volume 4, Issue 1, pp 87–100

Does Invasion of Exotic Plants Promote Invasion of Exotic Flower Visitors? A Case Study from the Temperate Forests of the Southern Andes


DOI: 10.1023/A:1020513012689

Cite this article as:
Morales, C.L. & Aizen, M.A. Biological Invasions (2002) 4: 87. doi:10.1023/A:1020513012689


Habitat disturbance, particularly of human origin, promotes the invasion of exotic plants, which in turn might foster the invasion of alien-interacting animals. Here we assess whether the invasion of exotic plants – mostly mediated by habitat disturbance – facilitates the invasion of exotic flower visitors in temperate forests of the southern Andes, Argentina. We recorded visit frequencies and the identity of visitors to the flowers of 15 native and 15 exotic plant species occurring in different highly disturbed and less disturbed habitats. We identified three alien flower visitors, the hymenopterans Apis mellifera, Bombus ruderatus, and Vespula germanica. We found significantly more visitation by exotic insects in disturbed habitats. This pattern was explained, at least in part, by the association between alien flower visitors and flowers of exotic plants, which occurred more frequently in disturbed habitats. However, this general pattern masked different responses between the two main alien flower visitors. Apis mellifera exploited almost exclusively the flowers of a subset of herbaceous exotic plants that thrive under disturbance, whereas B. ruderatus visited equally flowers of both exotic and native plants in both disturbed and undisturbed habitats. We did not find any strong evidence that flowers of exotic plants were more generalist than those of native plants, or that exotic flower visitors were more generalist than their native counterparts. Our results suggest that alien plant species could facilitate the invasion of at least some exotic flower visitors to disturbed habitats. Because flowering plants as well as flower visitors benefit from this mutualism, this association may enhance, through a positive feedback, successful establishment of both exotic partners.

exotic plants and flower visitorsfacilitationforest habitat disturbancegeneralisationplant–pollinator interactionssouthern South America

Copyright information

© Kluwer Academic Publishers 2002

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Laboratorio EcotonoUniversidad Nacional del Comahue and CONICETBariloche, Río NegroArgentina