In aquatic systems, invasive submerged macrophytes considerably alter the structure and functioning of communities, thus potentially compromising ecosystem services. The prolific spread of invasive macrophytes is often aided by vegetative fragment propagation, yet the contributions of various commonly occurring invertebrates to such fragmentation are often unquantified. In the present study, we examine fragmentary spread of invasive macrophytes by a group of shredder-herbivores, larval caddisflies. Through novel application of the comparative functional response (FR; resource use as a function of density) approach to the native case-building species Limnephilus lunatus, we compared utilisation of non-native waterweeds Elodea canadensis and E. nuttallii in mono- and polycultures. Furthermore, we quantified de-cased and cased caddisfly-induced fragment production and length changes among non-native E. canadensis, E. nuttallii, Crassula helmsii and Lagarosiphon major under two different plant orientations: horizontal (floating) versus vertical (upright) growth forms. Larval caddisflies exhibited Type II (hyperbolic) FRs towards both Elodea species, and utilised each plant at similar rates when plants were provided separately. When plant species were presented in combination horizontally, E. canadensis was significantly less utilised compared to E. nuttallii, corroborating observations in the field. De-cased larvae produced new plant fragments for all four aquatic macrophytes, whereas cased larvae fragmented plants significantly less. Elodea nuttalii and C. helmsii were fragmented the most overall. Crassula helmsii was utilised to the greatest extent when plants were horizontally orientated, and Elodea species when vertically orientated. This study identifies and quantifies a mechanism from a novel species group that may contribute to the spread of invasive macrophytes in aquatic systems. Whilst exploititative interactions are thought to impede invasion success, here we demonstrate how resource utilisation by a resident species may exacerbate propagule pressure from an invasive species.
- Biodiversity conservation
- Invasive species
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics