Consequences of exotic host use: impacts on Lepidoptera and a test of the ecological trap hypothesis

Abstract

Investigating the effects of invasive species on native biodiversity is one of the most pressing challenges in ecology. Our goal in this study was to quantify the effects of invasive plants on butterfly and moth communities. In addition, we sought to elucidate the fitness consequences of non-native hosts on lepidopterans. We conducted a meta-analysis on a total of 76 studies which provided data on larval performance, survival, oviposition preference, abundance, and species richness of Lepidoptera on native and exotic plants. Overwhelmingly, we found that performance and survival were reduced for larvae developing on exotic hosts, relative to native hosts. At the community level, alien plant invasion was associated with a reduction in the overall abundance and richness of lepidopteran communities. We found that lepidopterans did not show strong oviposition preference for native hosts. This result suggests that many invasive plant species may decrease lepidopteran abundance by providing a target for oviposition where larvae have a relatively poor chance of survival. Among studies that tested both survival and preference on exotic hosts, 37.5 % found evidence for novel hosts that could function as ecological traps (the figure was 18 % when considering studies that only assayed larval performance). Thus, although the majority of novel hosts included in our analyses are not likely to act as ecological traps, the potential clearly exists for this effect, and the role of ecological traps should be considered along with other aspects of global change impacting natural communities.

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Acknowledgments

We would like to thank Matthew Forister and Angela Smilanich for their many helpful comments throughout the preparation of this manuscript. This work was supported by a National Science Foundation Graduate Fellowship (DGE-1447692) to S. Y. and the Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology at the University of Tennessee Knoxville to Q. R.

Author contribution statement

S. Y. did the literature review, extracted the data, and was responsible for preparing the manuscript. Q. R. performed the statistical analyses, wrote the Materials and methods and Results sections, and made the graphs. S. Y. wrote the first draft of the manuscript, with subsequent revisions by both S. Y. and Q. R.

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Correspondence to Su’ad Yoon.

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This paper represents a novel synthesis of the effects of non-native plant species on native insect herbivores. We use the latest statistical techniques available to address our questions. In addition, we synthesize community data from a geographically diverse range of ecosystems, as well as explore exotic host effects on larval fitness.

Communicated by Julia Koricheva.

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Yoon, S., Read, Q. Consequences of exotic host use: impacts on Lepidoptera and a test of the ecological trap hypothesis. Oecologia 181, 985–996 (2016). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00442-016-3560-2

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Keywords

  • Invasive plants
  • Oviposition preference
  • Performance
  • Survival
  • Ecological traps