Invasive species are species transported and introduced by humans outside their natural range. This species are established and dispersed in the new habitats. Invasive species can produce changes in native species populations and even lead to its local extinction. Invaded communities can suffer different impacts, like competition for environmental resources, changes in soil properties or in the disturbance regime. However, the effects on other trophic levels have received less attention. Most studies on the impact of invasive plants and its interactions with pollinators have only considered interactions between pairs of species. Since plants tend to interact with several pollinators and the pollinators visit several species of plants, invasive species have the potential to disrupt not only particular interactions, but the entire network of interactions. However, there has been little research on the impact of invasions in the community of pollinators and plants. This thesis explores how the systems of plants and pollinators are affected by invasive plant species. We studied three invasive species, Carpobrotus aff acinaciformis, Opuntia stricta and Impatiens glandulifera to characterize their integration and impacts on the network of native interactions. The native pollinators, especially generalists, provide an integration way for invasive plants. Both C. acinaciformis and O. stricta depend on pollinators for sexual reproduction in the introduced area. However, C. acinaciformis is slightly limited by pollen. The competition for pollinators with native plants depends on the context, thus, we found competition processes with O. stricta, facilitation with C. acinaciformis and we did not find any effects on I. glandulifera. In the case of C. acinaciformis that facilitated visits to natives, we saw that the invasive pollen has very little chance of interfering with the reproduction of native plants and is deposited in very low frequency in the stigmas of native species. Finally, when we evaluate the importance of the landscape context in I. glandulifera, the impact of the invasion appear to be independent from the effects of the landscape. Plant-pollinator networks are complex and involve large numbers of interactions, so it is difficult to predict the impact of invasive species. However, the fact that the three studied plants produce major changes in the networks is very significant.
|Date of Award||29 May 2008|
|Supervisor||Francisco Lloret Maya (Tutor) & Montserrat Vilà Planella (Director)|