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Effects of insect herbivory on seedling mortality in restored and remnant tropical forest

Citation

Kulikowski, Andy J.; Zahawi, Rakan A.; Holl, Karen D. (2021), Effects of insect herbivory on seedling mortality in restored and remnant tropical forest, Dryad, Dataset, https://doi.org/10.7291/D1209N

Abstract

Insect herbivory is one of the major drivers of seedling mortality in the tropics and influences plant abundances and community composition. Anthropogenic disturbance can alter patterns of insect herbivory with potential consequences on plant communities in restored forests. We planted seedlings of early- and later-stage successional tree species in 13–15-year-old restored and remnant tropical forests. We then either excluded insect herbivores or left seedlings exposed to examine how insect herbivory-affected seedling mortality. Early-successional seedlings experienced similar decreases in mortality when insect herbivores were excluded from both restored and remnant forest sites, but this effect was smaller and driven by only a few species in restored forests. Later-successional seedlings experienced a stronger decrease in mortality between open and insect-excluded treatments in remnant than restored sites. Our results suggest that herbivory-driven seedling mortality is lower in restored forests, particularly for later-successional seedlings. Results are encouraging from a restoration perspective because recruitment of later-successional seedlings is a key component of ecosystem recovery. However, if reductions in seedling mortality continue over the long term, this may affect tree community composition as succession progresses.

Funding

National Science Foundation, Award: DEB 1456520