Plant invasions can alter the trophic interactions of invaded ecosystems because of phenological differences between native and invasive plants that may affect the population dynamics and diets of indigenous arthropod herbivores. This issue, however, has seldom been studied. We here report on how abundance and diet of a local tussock moth (Laelia coenosa) are affected by the invasive plant Spartina alterniflora in a Chinese salt marsh previously dominated by the moth’s native host plant, Phragmites australis. We monitored the population dynamics of L. coenosa from four types of hosts: (1) Phragmites in its monoculture, (2) Spartina in its monoculture, and either (3) Phragmites, or (4) Spartina in Phragmites–Spartina mixtures. Additionally, we tested the diet of L. coenosa from the mixtures with isotope analysis. We found that the larval densities of L. coenosa were similar on Spartina and Phragmites in their respective monocultures and mixtures in summer but were greater on Spartina than on Phragmites in autumn. Stable isotope analysis showed that Spartina was a food resource for L. coenosa. The change in the insect’s population dynamics associated with Spartina invasion might be caused by phenological differences between Spartina and Phragmites in that Spartina has a longer growing season than Phragmites. Our study indicates that the extended phenology of Spartina invasion has altered the abundance and diet of the indigenous herbivorous insect (L. coenosa) previously feeding on native Phragmites. We predict such alternation may increase the consuming pressure to native plants via apparent competition, and thereby may facilitate the further invasion of the exotic plants in the salt marsh.
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We thank Prof. Bruce Jaffee of the University of California at Davis for improving the English language of this manuscript. Financial support for this study was provided by the National Basic Research Program of China (Grant No. 2013CB430404), the National Science Foundation of China (Grant No. 30930019), the Science and Technology Commission of Shanghai Municipality (Grant No. 14DZ1206003), and Ministry of Education of China (Grant No. 20120071110017).
Guest editors: Alan Gray and Malika Ainouche/Invasive Spartina.
Rui-Ting Ju and Yang-Yun Chen have contributed equally to this work.
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Ju, RT., Chen, YY., Gao, L. et al. The extended phenology of Spartina invasion alters a native herbivorous insect’s abundance and diet in a Chinese salt marsh. Biol Invasions 18, 2229–2236 (2016). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10530-015-0981-5