Plant stress and the prevalence of pests and pathogens associated with a native and an invasive alien legume tree in the Cape Floristic Region, South Africa

Van Der Colff, Dewidine (2014-04)

Thesis (MSc)--Stellenbosch University, 2014.

Thesis

ENGLISH ABSTRACT: Invasive alien plant species have devastating effects on the environments that they invade. Australian Acacias, a group of plants that has been planted globally for a range of uses, but has escape plantation areas and became invasive in many countries, are particularly problematic. Acacia mearnsii is one of these invasive alien plant species and in South Africa it is also an important forestry species. It is currently the fifth most widespread invasive alien plant in South Africa, only restricted by the very arid Karoo, thus it is important to assess the different habitats that it enters. The Afromontane forest complex in South Africa is highly fragmented and is one of the most threatened Biomes in the country. The widespread forest margin tree Virgilia divaricata occurs within these forest margins. It is ecologically similar to A. mearnsii as these two species share many characteristics (nodulating legumes, forest pioneer species, fast growing and fire adapted). These species occur sympatrically within invaded forest margins and within these sites, there is a potential for biological exchanges of associated pests and pathogens in the form of arthropods and fungal species. We hypothesize that these two species have different interactions with their pests and pathogens in accordance with the Enemy Release Hypothesis (ERH) and the Biotic Resistance Hypothesis (BRH), respectively. We first compared arthropod associates between these two tree species and found that they share many arthropod species. The native tree did, however, have much higher abundances of herbivores and overall arthropod associates than the invasive tree species, which supports the predictions of the ERH. The distribution of these two species also had an effect on their arthropod assemblages. We assessed their ophiostomatoid fungal associates and herbivore loads and then determined how these pests and pathogens were influenced by environmental conditions along a water gradient. We also compared the effect of plant nutrient content of the two tree species on pest and pathogen loads. A. mearnsii was unaffected by water limitation along this gradient, while δ12C/ δ13C analyses showed that V. divaricata trees experienced drought within drier sites. V. divaricata also had higher herbivore loads in drier sites. A. mearnsii had higher herbivore loads on nutrient deficient trees and higher disease development in trees with sufficient nutrient levels. Comparisons of the nutrient economies of the two legume trees showed that they had similar leaf nutrient contents and resorption efficiencies, but they differed in the use of Biological Nitrogen Fixation (BNF). The native tree utilized BNF more than the invasive. We also tested the physiological effects of a native fungal species on the two tree species. We found the infection elicited more response from the invasive, while the native plant was almost non-responsive. Both plants had significantly longer lesions on infected seedlings than on control plants after inoculation with this pathogen. This difference in response offers a measure of support to the BRH, as the invasive may be more vulnerable to infection. The importance of using related, ecologically similar species in the assessment of the impacts of invasive alien plants is highlighted here. This may provide more information on the actual ecological interaction between native and invasive species within invaded ranges. Forest margins are very vulnerable and dynamic habitats. The influx of a new species into this habitat in the form of an invasive alien plant may therefore have much negative effects. We found support for the exchange of pest and pathogens where these two tree species co-occur. The two host species were very similar in their nutrient economies, creating a potential for competition for similar resources between A. mearnsii and V. divaricata. The environment had an influence on how these plants responded to pest and pathogens and this may be important under the predicted scenario of future climate change.

AFRIKAANSE OPSOMMING: Uitheemse indringer plant spesies het vernietigende effekte op die omgewings waarbinne hulle indring. Australiese Acacias, ‗n groep plante wat reg oor die wêreld aangeplant is vir ‗n reeks gebruike, maar wat uit plantasie areas ontsnap het en indringers geword het in baie lande, is besonder problematies. Acacia mearnsii is een van hierdie indringer uitheemse plant spesies, en in Suid Afrika is ook ‗n belangrike bosbou spesie. Dit is tans die vyfde mees wydverspreide uitheemse indringer plant in Suid Afrika, en word slegs beperk deur die baie droë Karoo, so dit is belangrik om die verskillende habitatte wat dit binnedring te ondersoek. Woudrandte, the grense van die Afromontane woudkompleks in Suid Afrika, is hoogs gefragmenteerd en is dus een van die mees bedreigde Biome in die land. Die wydverspreide woudrand boom Virgilia divaricata kom in hierdie woudrandte voor. Dit is ekologies eenders aan A. mearnsii, aangesien hierdie twee spesies baie kenmerke deel (wortelknop-vormende peulplante, woudpionier spesies, vining groeiend, aangepas tot brande). Hierdie spesies kom simpatries voor binne woudrandte wat deur A. mearnsii ingedring is, en in hierdie lokaliteite bestaan daar die potensiaal vir biologiese uitruiling van geassosieerde peste en patogene in die vorm van geleedpotiges en fungi spesies. Ons stel die hipotese dat hierdie twee spesies verkillende interaksies met hulle peste en patogene het, in ooreenstemming met die Vyand-Vrystellingshipotese (VVH) en die Biologiese-Weerstandshipotese (BWH), onderskeidelik. Ons het eers die geleedpotige assosieasie tussen hierdie twee boom spesies vergelyk en het bevind dat hulle baie geleedpotige spesies deel. Die inheemse boom het egter baie hoër getalle herbivore en algehele geleedpotige-assosiasies gehad as die indringer boom spesie, wat die voorspellings van die VVH ondersteun. Die verspreiding van hierdie twee spesies het ook ‗n effek gehad op hulle geleedpotige samestellings. Ons het ook hulle geassosieerde ophiostomatiede fungus assosiate en hulle herbivoor ladings bestudeer, en het bepaal hoe hierdie peste en patogene deur omgewingstoestande beinvloed is langs ‗n water gradient. Ons het ook die effek van hierdie peste en patogene op die voedingstof-inhoud van hierdie twee spesies vergelyk. A. meansii is nie geaffekteer deur waterbeperkings langs hierdie gradient nie, terwyl δ12C/ δ13C analises aangedui het dat V. divaricata bome droogte stres in droër lokaliteite ervaar het. V. divaricata het ook hoër herbivoorladings gehad in die droër lokaliteite. A. meanrsii het hoër herbivoorladings gehad op voedingstof-beperkte bome, en daar was verhoogde siekte-ontwikkeling in bome met genoegsame voiding. Vergelykings van die voedingstof-ekonomië van die twee peulplant bome het aangedui dat hulle eenderse blaarvoedingstof-inhoude en resorpsie effektiwiteite het, maar het verskil in die gebruik van Biologiese Stikstof Fiksasie (BSF). Die inheemse boom het meer van BSF gebruik gemaak as die indringer. Ons het ook die fisiologiese effekte van ‗n inheemse fungus spesie op die twee boomspesies getoets. Ons het bevind dat infeksie ‗n sterker reaksie in die indringer ontlok het, terwyl die inheemse plant feitlik glad nie op infeksie gereageer het nie. Beide plante het beduidend langer wondmerke in geinfekteerde saailinge ontwikkel as in kontrole plante na innokulasie met die patogeen. Hierdie verskil in reaksie verleen ‗n mate van ondersteuning aan die BWH, aangesien die indringer meer vatbaar mag wees teen infeksie. Die belang daarvan om verwante, ekologies soortgelyke spesies te gebruik in die bepaling van die effekte van uitheemse indringer spesies word hier beklemtoon. Dit mag meer inligting verskaf oor die werklike ekologiese interaksie tussen inheemse en indringer spesies binne verspreidings wat binnegedring is. Woudrandte is baie weerlose en dinamiese habitatte. Die invoer van nuwe spesies in hierdie habitat in die vorm van ‗n uitheemse indringer plant mag daarom baie negatiewe effekte hê. Ons het ondersteuning gevind vir die uitruiling van peste en patogene waar hierdie twee spesies saam voorkom. Hierdie spesies was baie eenders in terme van hulle voedingstof-ekonomië, wat die potensiaal skep vir kompetisie tussen A. mearnsii en V. divaricata. Die omgewing het ‗n effek gehad op hoe hierdie plante gereageer het op peste en patogene, en dit mag belangrik wees onder die huidig voorspelde senarios van toekomstige klimaatsverandering.

Please refer to this item in SUNScholar by using the following persistent URL: http://hdl.handle.net/10019.1/86322
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