Contrasting impacts of highly invasive plant species on flower-visiting insect communities

Abstract

Invasive alien plants threaten biodiversity, ecosystems and service provision worldwide. They can have positive and negative direct and indirect effects on herbivorous insects, including those that provide pollination services. Here, we quantify how three highly invasive plant species (Heracleum mantegazzianum, Impatiens glandulifera and Fallopia japonica) influence the availability of floral resources and flower-visiting insect communities. We compared invaded with comparable uninvaded areas to assess floral resources and used pan-trapping to quantify insect communities. Only F. japonica influenced floral resource availability: sites invaded by this species had a higher flowering plant species richness and abundance of open floral units than uninvaded sites, probably due to its late flowering and the paucity of other flowering species at this time of year. Fallopia japonica was also associated with higher abundances of bumblebees, higher overall insect diversity and higher hoverfly diversity than uninvaded areas. Differences in pollinator communities were also associated with I. glandulifera and H. mantegazzianum, despite there being no detectable differences in floral resources at these sites. Specifically, there were more bumblebees and solitary bees in I. glandulifera sites, and a higher overall diversity of insects, particularly hoverflies. By contrast, H. mantegazzianum sites had a lower abundance of solitary bees and hoverflies. These findings confirm that invasive plant species have a range of species-specific effects on ecological communities. This supports the emerging view that control of invasive species, as required under international obligations, is not simple and that potential losses and gains for biodiversity must be carefully evaluated on a case-by-case basis.

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Funding

This work was supported by the European Union’s European Regional Development Fund, Department of the Environment (Northern Ireland) and Department of the Environment, Community and Local Government (Ireland) (INTERREG IVA CIRB project). We thank Inland Fisheries Ireland, Loughs Agency, Northern Ireland Environment Agency, Belfast City Council, Lagan Valley Regional Park, Rivers Agency and many local landowners for support and granting access to sites and Una Fitzpatrick for assistance with insect identification.

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Correspondence to Jane C. Stout.

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Communicated by David Hawksworth.

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Davis, E.S., Kelly, R., Maggs, C.A. et al. Contrasting impacts of highly invasive plant species on flower-visiting insect communities. Biodivers Conserv 27, 2069–2085 (2018). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10531-018-1525-y

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Keywords

  • Bees
  • Floral resources
  • Invasion
  • Pollinator communities
  • Syrphidae
  • Hoverflies
  • Riparian