3 years ago

Pre-damage biomass allocation and not invasiveness predicts tolerance to damage in seedlings of woody species in Hawaii.

Daehler, Lurie, Barton
Plant-herbivore interactions have been predicted to play a fundamental role in plant invasions, although support for this assertion from previous research is mixed. While plants may escape from specialist herbivores in their introduced ranges, herbivory from generalists is common. Tolerance traits may allow non-native plants to mitigate the negative consequences of generalist herbivory that they cannot avoid in their introduced range. Here we address whether tolerance to herbivory, quantified as survival and compensatory growth, is associated with plant invasion success in Hawaii and investigate traits that may enhance tolerance in seedlings, the life stage most susceptible to herbivory. In a greenhouse experiment, we measured seedling tolerance to simulated herbivory through mechanical damage (50% leaf removal) of 16 non-native woody plant species differing in invasion status (invasive vs. non-invasive). Seedlings were grown for two weeks following damage and analyzed for biomass to determine whether damaged plants could fully compensate for the lost leaf tissue. Over 99% of all seedlings survived defoliation. Although species varied significantly in their levels of compensation, there was no consistent difference between invasive and non-invasive species. Seedlings of 11 species undercompensated and remained substantially smaller than control seedlings two weeks after damage; four species were close to compensating, while one species overcompensated. Across species, compensation was positively associated with an increased investment in potential storage reserves, specifically cotyledons and roots, suggesting that these organs provide resources that help seedlings re-grow following damage. Our results add to a growing consensus that pre-damage growth patterns determine tolerance to damage, even in young seedlings which have relatively low biomass. The lack of higher tolerance in highly invasive species may suggest that invaders overcome herbivory barriers to invasion in other ways, such as resistance traits, or that herbivory does not play an important role in the seedling invasion dynamics of these woody species in Hawaii. This article is protected by copyright. All rights reserved.

Publisher URL: http://doi.org/10.1002/ecy.2031

DOI: 10.1002/ecy.2031

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