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The effects of introduced plants on songbird reproductive success


The effects of non-native plants on habitat use are well studied; however, whether introduced plants negatively influence reproductive output of animal populations has received much less attention. We conducted a systematic literature review to evaluate the influence of non-native plants on reproductive performance in songbirds. Our global search resulted in 32 relevant articles, from which we compiled a dataset of 133 songbird responses to nesting in or around non-native vegetation. Reproductive metrics examined included measures of nest survival/mortality, productivity, fledgling survival, adult survival, nestling condition, and brood parasitism. Thirty-five percent of songbird reproductive responses were negative (n = 47), with 31% positive (n = 41) and 34% neutral (n = 45) responses found. Only 15% of responses were statistically significant effects (n = 20), and of these, negative effects were reported three times as often as positive effects. Non-significant trends were more prevalent (51% of responses), and the frequency of negative and positive trends was similar. The probability of finding a negative response (significant effect or non-significant trend) was higher for birds using introduced shrubs and wetland habitats. Mechanisms underlying responses were diverse, though similar drivers, such as differences in vegetation characteristics, predation pressure, and resource availability, were offered to explain both positive and negative effects. We found evidence for non-native plants as ecological traps in 39% of articles that assessed these phenomena (n = 16). This review highlights the sparsity of research targeting reproductive responses to plant invasion and synthesizes existing information to enhance our understanding of how birds respond to non-native plants. Our findings could be used to inform future research priorities in a world increasingly dominated by novel ecosystems.

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We thank W. Clements, J. Northrup, S. Reed and two anonymous reviewers for valuable comments that greatly improved earlier drafts of the manuscript.

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Correspondence to Lani T. Stinson.

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Stinson, L.T., Pejchar, L. The effects of introduced plants on songbird reproductive success. Biol Invasions 20, 1403–1416 (2018).

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  • Invasive exotic species
  • Non-native vegetation
  • Reproductive performance
  • Nest survival
  • Fitness
  • Ecological trap