Browsing by Author "Van der Colff, Dewidine"
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- ItemPlant 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(Stellenbosch : Stellenbosch University, 2014-04) Van der Colff, Dewidine; Roets, F.; Valentine, A.; Dreyer, L. L.; Stellenbosch University. Faculty of Science. Dept. of Botany and Zoology.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.