Variation in Herbivore Damage to Invasive and Native Woody Plant Species in Open Forest Vegetation on Mahé, Seychelles
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Enemy release of introduced plants and variation in herbivore pressure in relation to community diversity are presently discussed as factors that affect plant species invasiveness or habitat invasibility. So far few data are available on this topic and the results are inconclusive. We compared leaf herbivory between native and invasive woody plants on Mahé, the main island of the tropical Seychelles. We further investigated variation in leaf herbivory on three abundant invasive species along an altitudinal gradient (50–550 m a.s.l.). The median percentage of leaves affected by herbivores was significantly higher in native species (50%) than in invasive species (27%). In addition, the species suffering from the highest leaf area loss were native to the Seychelles. These results are consistent with the enemy release hypothesis (ERH). While the invasive species showed significant and mostly consistent variation in the amount of leaf damage between sites, this variation was not related to general altitudinal trends in diversity but rather to local variation in habitat structure and diversity. Our results indicate that in the Seychelles invasive woody plants profit from herbivore release relative to the native species and that the amount of herbivory, and therefore its effect on species invasiveness or habitat invasibility, may be dependent on local community structure and composition.
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