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Bird predation enhances tree seedling resistance to insect herbivores in contrasting forest habitats

, : Bird predation enhances tree seedling resistance to insect herbivores in contrasting forest habitats. Oecologia 168(2): 415-424

According to the associational resistance hypothesis, neighbouring plants are expected to influence both the insect herbivore communities and their natural enemies. However, this has rarely been tested for the effects of canopy trees on herbivory of seedlings. One possible mechanism responsible for associational resistance is the indirect impact of natural enemies on insect herbivory, such as insectivorous birds. But it remains unclear to what extent such trophic cascades are influenced by the composition of plant associations (i.e. identity of associated plants). Here, we compared the effect of bird exclusion on insect leaf damage for seedlings of three broadleaved tree species in three different forest habitats. Exclusion of insectivorous birds affected insect herbivory in a species-specific manner: leaf damage increased on Betula pendula seedlings whereas bird exclusion had no effect for two oaks (Quercus robur and Q. ilex). Forest habitat influenced both the extent of insect herbivory and the effect of bird exclusion. Broadleaved seedlings had lower overall leaf damage within pine plantations than within broadleaved stands, consistent with the resource concentration hypothesis. The indirect effect of bird exclusion on leaf damage was only significant in pine plantations, but not in exotic and native broadleaved woodlands. Our results support the enemies hypothesis, which predicts that the effects of insectivorous birds on insect herbivory on seedlings are greater beneath non-congeneric canopy trees. Although bird species richness and abundance were greater in broadleaved woodlands, birds were unable to regulate insect herbivory on seedlings in forests of more closely related tree species.


PMID: 21811874

DOI: 10.1007/s00442-011-2089-7

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