Invader to invader facilitation: ice plant mats prompt increased densities and grazing impacts of white garden snails in a Pampean coastal dune system.
Non-native species can facilitate other non-native species via their effects on the physical environment. Here, I evaluate whether the ice plant, Carpobrotus edulis, prompts increased densities and grazing impacts of the white garden snail, Theba pisana, in coastal dunes of the Argentinean Pampas, where both species are non-native. Snail densities were higher in ice plant patches than in native graminoid patches over four seasonal samplings. Snail activity and grazing impacts on two co-occurring forbs (the native Hydrocotyle bonariensis and the non-native Calystegia soldanella) were also higher within ice plant patches. Experimental ice plant transplant into graminoid-dominated areas led to increased snail densities and grazing impacts, which demonstrates cause-effect relationships linking ice plant cover with increasing snail densities and grazing damage to forbs. The findings here suggest that ice plant mats provide suitable microclimatic conditions for T. pisana, and thereby facilitate greater snail numbers in ice plant patches leading to increased grazing rates on other plants. On that basis, it can be expected that the cumulative effect of both invaders on co-occurring plants would be larger than their individual effects.