Exotic herbivores on a shared native host: Tissue quality after individual, simultaneous, and sequential attack

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Plants in nature are often attacked by multiple enemies whose effect on the plant cannot always be predicted based on the outcome of individual attacks. We investigated how two invasive herbivores, the hemlock woolly adelgid (Adelges tsugae) (HWA) and the elongate hemlock scale (Fiorinia externa) (EHS), alter host plant quality (measured as amino acid concentration and composition) when feeding individually or jointly on eastern hemlock (Tsuga canadensis), an important long-lived forest tree that is in severe decline. The joint herbivore treatments included both simultaneous and sequential infestations by the two herbivores. We expected resource depletion over time, particularly in response to feeding by HWA. In contrast, HWA dramatically increased the concentration and altered the composition of individual free amino acids. Compared to control trees, HWA increased total amino acid concentration by 330% after 1 year of infestation. Conversely, EHS had a negligible effect when feeding individually. Interestingly, there was a marginally significant HWA × EHS interaction that suggests the potential for EHS presence to reduce the impact of HWA on foliage quality when the two species co-occur. We suggest indirect effects of water stress as a possible physiological mechanism for our results. Understanding how species interactions change the physiology of a shared host is crucial to making more accurate predictions about host mortality and subsequent changes in affected communities and ecosystems, and to help design appropriate management plans. © 2012 Springer-Verlag.

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