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Introduced mangroves exhibit less leaf damage and greater performance than native mangroves


The enemy release hypothesis (ERH) predicts that introduced species leave most enemies behind during the invasion process, resulting in less enemy damage and increased performance in their introduced range. In Hawai‘i, introduced red mangroves (Rhizophora mangle) convert open shorelines into dense mangrove forests. While previous studies show introduced mangroves harbor a lower occurrence of damage on various plant structures, it remains unknown if the magnitude of damage to mangrove leaves and metrics of performance differ between introduced and native populations. In this study, we tested some of the predictions of the ERH through leaf damage surveys and a year-long damage experiment replicated in 8–10 sites in the native (Caribbean and Florida) and introduced (Hawai‘i) range of red mangroves. In each site, we (1) compared the percentage of leaf area damaged, (2) measured metrics of performance (leaf loss, leaf, twig, and propagule production), and (3) experimentally tested how rapidly necrosis spreads on artificially-damaged leaves of R. mangle. Our results were largely consistent with the ERH. Native mangroves exhibited orders of magnitude higher leaf damage than introduced mangroves, suffered nearly twice the leaf loss, and produced fewer twigs and propagules than introduced mangroves over one year. Leaf production and the expansion of necrotic area on leaves were similar. Broadly, our study demonstrates that introduced mangroves experience substantially less leaf damage and thus, may be exhibiting evidence of increased growth and fecundity. Our results may help explain why introduced mangroves continue to be so productive and are considered invasive in Hawaiian habitats.

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The data for this study are available by contacting the corresponding author.


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We wish to acknowledge the field and lab assistance provided by Danielle Nestler, Taylor Jackson, Jessica Agajan, Anthony Ziba, Jill Schmid, Andrew Sellers, Carmen Schloeder, and Nicole Yamase. Rafael Diaz provided helpful statistical advice and Candy Feller provided useful information on herbivory patterns in mangroves. Site access and logistical support was provided by the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute Bocas del Toro Research Station, Rookery Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve, U.S. Navy at Pearl Harbor, Ka Honua Momona, Mālama Hulē‘ia, Paepae o Heʻeia, Outfitters Kauai, the Vernon family, Charlie Cobb-Adams, the Kalipi family, Herbert and Simone Kollmann, and the Toledo Institute for Development and Environment in Punta Gorda. We also thank Dr. Amanda MF Davidson and two anonymous reviewers for providing feedback that improved previous versions of our manuscript. This work was funded by the National Science Foundation (OCE-1323429 to TMD) and the Sacramento State Research and Creative Activities program (to TMD). This is publication number 195 from the School of Life Sciences, University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa.


Funding was provided by the National Science Foundation (OCE-1323429 to TMD) and the Sacramento State Research and Creative Activities program (to TMD).

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All authors contributed to the study conception and design. Data collection and analysis was conducted by Timothy M Davidson. Davidson wrote the first draft of the paper and all authors edited and developed previous versions of the manuscript. All authors have read and approve of the final manuscript.

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Correspondence to Timothy M. Davidson.

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Davidson, T.M., Torchin, M.E. & Smith, C.M. Introduced mangroves exhibit less leaf damage and greater performance than native mangroves. Biol Invasions 25, 3503–3515 (2023).

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