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Foliar herbivory and its effects on plant growth in native and exotic species in the Patagonian steppe


Foliar herbivory and its effects on plant growth in native and exotic species in the Patagonian steppe



Ecological Research 27(5): 903-912



ISSN/ISBN: 0912-3814

DOI: 10.1007/s11284-012-0968-y

Studies of herbivory and its consequences on the growth of native and exotic plants could help elucidate some processes involved in plant invasions. Introduced species are likely to experience reduced herbivory in their new range due to the absence of specialist enemies and, thus, may have higher benefits if they reduce the investment in resistance and increase their compensatory capacity. In order to evaluate the role of herbivory in disturbed areas within the Patagonian steppe, we quantified and compared the leaf levels of herbivory of four native and five exotic species and recorded the associated insect fauna. We also performed greenhouse experiments in which we simulated herbivory in order to evaluate the compensatory capacity of native and exotic species under different herbivory levels that resembled naturally occurring damage. Natural herbivory levels in the field were similar between the studied exotic and native plants. Field observations confirmed that they both shared some herbivore insects, most of which are generalists. In the greenhouse experiments, both exotic and native plants fully compensated for herbivory. Our results suggest that the studied exotic plants are not released from herbivory in the Patagonian steppe but are able to fully compensate for it. The capacity to recover from herbivory coupled with other potential adaptations, such as a better performance under disturbance and greater competitive ability than that of the native species, may represent some of the mechanisms responsible for the success of plant invasion in the Patagonian steppe.

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Accession: 036503306

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