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Diversity and abundance of insect herbivores foraging on seedlings in a rainforest in Guyana

Diversity and abundance of insect herbivores foraging on seedlings in a rainforest in Guyana

Ecological entomology 24(3): 245-259

1. Free-living insect herbivores foraging on 10000 tagged seedlings representing five species of common rainforest trees were surveyed monthly for more than 1 year in an unlogged forest plot of 1 km(2) in Guyana. 2. Overall, 9056 insect specimens were collected. Most were sap-sucking insects, which represented at least 244 species belonging to 25 families. Leaf-chewing insects included at least 101 species belonging to 16 families. Herbivore densities were among the lowest densities reported in tropical rainforests to date: 2.4 individuals per square metre of foliage. 3. Insect host specificity was assessed by calculating Lloyd's index of patchiness from distributional records and considering feeding records in captivity and in situ. Generalists represented 84 and 78% of sap-sucking species and individuals, and 75 and 42% of leaf-chewing species and individuals. In particular, several species of polyphagous xylem-feeding Cicadellinae were strikingly abundant on all hosts. 4. The high incidence of generalist insects suggests that the Janzen-Connell model, explaining rates of attack on seedlings as a density-dependent process resulting from contagion of specialist insects from parent trees, is unlikely to be valid in this study system. 5. Given the rarity of flushing events for the seedlings during the study period, the low insect densities, and the high proportion of generalists, the data also suggest that seedlings may represent a poor resource for free-living insect herbivores in rainforests.

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Accession: 003098706

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DOI: 10.1046/j.1365-2311.1999.00197.x

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