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8 November 2018 Reduced Defenses and Increased Herbivore Preference of Island Chaparral Shrubs Compared to Mainland Relatives
Ryan A. Salladay, Aaron R. Ramirez
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Abstract

The absence of herbivores from certain environments may select for plants that are less defended and more palatable compared to plants in similar environments that are exposed to herbivory. This potential loss of defenses becomes especially important when exotic herbivores are introduced to islands that historically lack such organisms, potentially resulting in negative effects on native island ecosystems. To test the hypothesis that island plants have reduced defensive traits, we measured structural defenses and palatability of 10 taxonomic pairs from contrasting island and mainland environments. Our study compares plants from Santa Catalina Island, California—which has a long history without large native herbivores followed by more recent human-caused introductions—to the adjacent southern California mainland where ungulate herbivores are native and common. Our results suggest that island plants have reduced structural defenses and are more preferred by herbivores compared to their mainland plant relatives. These patterns are likely driven by selection on plant traits in the unique and insular island environment. Reduced defenses and increased palatability of island plant species should be considered when developing management strategies for island ecosystems that historically lack native ungulate herbivores.

© 2018
Ryan A. Salladay and Aaron R. Ramirez "Reduced Defenses and Increased Herbivore Preference of Island Chaparral Shrubs Compared to Mainland Relatives," Western North American Naturalist 78(4), 768-776, (8 November 2018). https://doi.org/10.3398/064.078.0416
Received: 1 March 2017; Accepted: 13 November 2017; Published: 8 November 2018
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