Indirect interactions between alien and native Senecio species as mediated by insects

White, Evelyn M. (2008) Indirect interactions between alien and native Senecio species as mediated by insects. PhD by Publication, Queensland University of Technology.

Abstract

The studies described in this thesis investigate the role of indirect effects in invasion biology. The Introduction provides a brief overview of indirect effects and an outline of the thesis structure. The role of indirect effects in the context of invasion biology is addressed in an in-depth published literature review that comprises the second chapter, providing a theoretical background for the subsequent empirical studies. Chapters Three to Six are comprised of manuscripts that have been published or are under review or in press, which describe studies that investigate the importance of indirect effects in invasion biology using a model system consisting of the alien Asteraceae Senecio madagascariensis, a closelyrelated native, Senecio pinnatifolius, and the insect species with which they interact. Senecio madagascariensis and S. pinnatifolius occur in a similar geographic range in eastern Australia and these studies were conducted in mixed and pure populations of the two species. The herbivore and floral visitor assemblages of the two Senecio species at seven field sites in South-east Queensland were compared using sweep-net sampling, manual searching and floral visitor observation techniques. The floral visitor assemblages were similar between the two species, comprised largely of species of Syrphidae and the European honeybee, Apis mellifera. Herbivore assemblages, however, were highly variable both between species and between sites, with greater herbivore abundance and diversity recorded on the native S. pinnatifolius than its alien congener. The most commonly recorded herbivores were sap-sucking species such as Myridae. The magpie moth, Nyctemera amica was the most common folivore on both Senecio species and laboratory studies demonstrated a clear preference by ovipositing females and feeding larvae of this species for the native Senecio species, over the alien. Field surveys supported these findings, recording greater leaf damage on the native species than the invader. Herbivory levels were lower, rather than higher, in mixed populations than in pure populations, thus there was no evidence that the presence of one species enhanced herbivory in the other.

Field pollination trials were conducted to determine whether competition for pollinators or facilitation of pollination occurred in mixed Senecio populations. The presence of the native S. pinnatifolius affected pollinator visitation rates to the alien Senecio; bee visits to S. madagascariensis were significantly reduced by the presence of S. pinnatifolius, whilst syrphid visits increased. However, altered visitation rates were not reflected in seed set. The presence of the alien species had no impact on pollinator visits to the native. Surprisingly, S. pinnatifolius seed set was higher in mixed populations than in pure populations. This might be due to abiotic factors, lower rates of herbivory at these sites or transfer of pollen between species resulting in the production of hybrid seed (if S. madagascariensis has greater male fitness). Hybridisation in the field was investigated using AFLP techniques. No mature hybrid plants were recorded in mixed populations, but hybrid seeds were produced by both species. Senecio pinnatifolius maternal parents produced higher numbers of hybrid seed than expected based on the relative frequencies of the two species, whilst hybridisation in S. madagascariensis was lower than expected. This may indicate greater male fitness of the invader.

A range of complex indirect interactions can occur between invasive and native species, with these interactions having the potential to influence the success or failure of the invader and its impacts on co-occurring natives. The Discussion addresses the findings of the studies described here in the context of invasion biology theory.

Impact and interest:

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ID Code: 16580
Item Type: QUT Thesis (PhD by Publication)
Supervisor: Clarke, Anthony & Baker, Andrew
Keywords: exotic, herbivory, higher order interactions, hybridisation, indirect effects, insectplant
Department: Faculty of Science
Institution: Queensland University of Technology
Copyright Owner: Copyright Evelyn Miriam White
Deposited On: 03 Dec 2008 04:06
Last Modified: 21 Jun 2017 14:41

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