Invasive Species Compendium

Detailed coverage of invasive species threatening livelihoods and the environment worldwide

Abstract

Grazer interactions with invasive Agarophyton vermiculophyllum (Rhodophyta): comparisons to related versus unrelated native algae.

Abstract

Ecosystem responses to invasion are strongly influenced by interactions between invaders and native species. If native species provide biotic resistance by consuming or competing with an invader, the invasion may be slowed, and/or invasive populations may be limited. If local herbivores recognize an invasive plant as being similar to native species, they may graze it more readily. Biotic resistance is thus generally predicted to increase if the invader is phylogenetically related to natives. However, if the native species were unpalatable, then grazers may be predisposed to avoid the invader, thus reducing biotic resistance from consumption. In the marine realm, invertebrate grazers often avoid feeding on invasive algae. However, tests comparing macroalgal invaders to phylogenetically related natives have been rare. Here we present data for invertebrate grazing and habitat use of (i) invasive Agarophyton vermiculophyllum (Rhodophyta: Gracilariales: Gracilarieae), (ii) the native contribal species Gracilaria tikvahiae, and (iii) an unrelated native, Ulva sp., the most common native alga in the system. We find that grazers prefer Ulva over both Gracilarieae, both for feeding and for habitat use. These data suggest that biotic resistance from consumption is low and not enhanced by the presence of a closely related native alga.