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Title: Effects of Alien Plants on Insect Abundance and Biomass: a Food-Web Approach
Authors: Heleno, Ruben 
Ceia, Ricardo S. 
Memmott, Jane 
Keywords: Animals; Biodiversity; Biomass; Insects; Plants; Population Dynamics; Conservation of Natural Resources; Food Chain
Issue Date: 2009
Serial title, monograph or event: Conservation Biology
Volume: 23
Issue: 2
Abstract: The replacement of native plants by alien species is likely to affect other trophic levels, particularly phytophagous insects. Nevertheless, the effect of alien plants on insect biomass has not yet been quantified. Given their critical role in transferring energy from plants to higher trophic levels, if alien plants do affect insect biomass, this could have far-reaching consequences for community structure. We used 35 food webs to evaluate the impacts of alien plants on insect productivity in a native forest in the Azores. Our food webs quantified plants, insect herbivores, and their parasitoids, which allowed us to test the effects of alien plants on species richness and evenness, insect abundance, insect biomass, and food-web structure. Species richness of plants and insects, along with plant species evenness, declined as the level of plant invasion increased. Nevertheless, none of the 4 quantitative food-web descriptors (number of links, link density, connectance, and interaction evenness) varied significantly with plant invasion independent of the size of the food web. Overall, insect abundance was not significantly affected by alien plants, but insect biomass was significantly reduced. This effect was due to the replacement of large insects on native plants with small insects on alien plants. Furthermore, the impact of alien plants was sufficiently severe to invert the otherwise expected pattern of species-richness decline with increased elevation. We predict a decrease in insect productivity by over 67% if conservation efforts fail to halt the invasion of alien plants in the Azores.
DOI: 10.1111/j.1523-1739.2008.01129.x
Rights: openAccess
Appears in Collections:I&D CFE - Artigos em Revistas Internacionais

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