Impact of alien rats and honeybees on the reproductive success of an ornithophilous endemic plant in Canarian thermosclerophyllous woodland relicts.
Islands harbor a considerable portion of global biodiversity and endemic biota, and also are the recipients of the largest proportional numbers of alien invaders. Such invaders may jeopardize the performance of native species, through either their direct or indirect effects. In this study, we investigated the reproductive ecology of the endemic scrambling perennial herb Canarina canariensis in remnants of the former thermosclerophyllous woodland of Tenerife (Canary Islands), assessing how two widespread alien invasive species, the honeybee (Apis mellifera) and the black rat (Rattus rattus), affect its reproductive success. Apis mellifera visits its flowers whereas the black rat consumes both its flowers and fruits. Here, we compared the pollination effectiveness of different animal guilds (vertebrates vs insects) by means of selective exclosures and determined the level of floral herbivory. Three bird species (Phylloscopus canariensis, Cyanistes teneriffae and Sylvia melanocephala), a lizard (Gallotia galloti) and two insects (A. mellifera and the butterfly Gonepteryx cleobule) were the main flower visitors. Phylloscopus canariensis was the most frequent visitor in the early flowering season whereas A. mellifera predominated in the flowers during mid and late flowering periods. Birds increased fruit set, whilst lizards and insects had a negligible effect. Rats consumed about 10% of the flowers and reduced fruit set to one third. Besides contributing little to plant reproduction, A. mellifera might interfere with bird pollination by depleting flowers of nectar. We conclude that both alien species can threaten C. canariensis reproduction and hence population sustainability in the thermosclerophyllous vegetation. Apis mellifera, in particular, may become especially detrimental if apiculture keeps expanding, or if this bee becomes active earlier in the season due to global warming.