Eutrophication and globalisation facilitate the dominance of exotic plants in aquatic ecosystems worldwide. Aquatic omnivores can provide biotic resistance to plant invasions, but little is known about whether obligate aquatic herbivores can do the same. Herbivores such as insects can decimate aquatic vegetation, but may not be able to consume exotic plants due to their more or less specialised nature of feeding. We experimentally tested the larval feeding of an aquatic insect, the moth Parapoynx stratiotata, on eleven submerged plant species, from either native or exotic origin. We also tested whether insect herbivory stimulates nutrient and organic matter release, thus affecting water quality. Larvae of P. stratiotata consumed seven out of eleven plant species, and their growth was related to plant nutrient content and stoichiometry. However, larvae had no preference for either native or exotic macrophytes, and their plant preference was not related to the measured plant traits, but was possibly driven by secondary metabolites. Through plant consumption, caterpillars induced brownification and phosphate release, and the intensity thereof varied among plant species, but not between native and exotic plants. In conclusion, P. stratiotata showed strong feeding preferences demonstrating that aquatic insects can directly and indirectly alter water quality and vegetation composition.
|Date made available||13 Apr 2016|