Date of this Version
Biol Invasions (2014) 16:1929–1940. DOI 10.1007/s10530-013-0636-3.
Non-native herbivores may alter plant communities through their preferential consumption of seedlings of different species. We assessed seedling herbivory by two invasive gastropod species in Hawaii, the giant African snail (Achatina fulica) and the Cuban brown slug (Veronicella cubensis). We hypothesized that six native species would suffer greater gastropod herbivory than four non-native species, and that species with short stature, thin leaves, and lacking physical defenses would suffer the greatest mortality from gastropods. Herbivory was measured during 13-day preference trials using enclosures that each contained four different woody species (two native, two non-native) and were assigned to one of three treatments: giant African snail, Cuban brown slug, or control (no gastropod). Discriminant function analysis was used to predict gastropod-induced seedling mortality from a suite of seedling characteristics. Native species did not always experience greater herbivory than non-natives species, and seedling mortality was 0–100 %. Native Pipturus albidus and Clermontia parviflora suffered 100 % mortality from V. cubensis herbivory, and P. albidus, Psychotria hawaiiensis, and Myrsine lessertiana suffered C80 % mortality from A. fulica. Two non-natives (Fraxinus uhdei, Clidemia hirta), and two natives (Metrosideros polymorpha, Diospyros sandwicensis), suffered little damage and no mortality. Non-native Ardisia elliptica suffered 10–30 %gastropod mortality, and non-native Psidium cattleianum mortality was 0–50 %. Leaf thickness best predicted species mortality caused by slugs and snails; some thicker-leaved species suffered most. Invasive snails and slugs threaten some native and non-native seedlings by directly consuming them. Current and future plant community structure in Hawaii may in part reflect the feeding preferences of invasive gastropods.