Associations between insect herbivores and the trees of Terceira island (Azores) native forests
Carla Rego, Mário Boieiro & Paulo A. V. Borges
Centre for Ecology, Evolution and Environmental Changes/Azorean Biodiversity Group,
Universidade dos Açores, Portugal
Plants and insect herbivores are two species rich groups with major ecological roles in most terrestrial ecosystems, including oceanic islands. Interestingly, some insect herbivores lineages are known to have diversified in association with their host plants (cospeciation) in Madeira and in the Canaries, originating several endemic species and exclusive ecological associations (Percy, 2010). Nevertheless, habitat destruction and invasive species are threatening these unique interactions. In Azores, native forests suffered a drastic reduction in area since human colonization and several endemic species went extinct (Rando et al., 2013; Alcover et al., 2015; Rego et al., 2015). In a recent study, Rego and colleagues (2019) found that despite this extensive destruction and the introduction of many alien species, the canopy of native forests still hosts a considerable number of endemic insect herbivores, and seems to act as a barrier for the colonization by alien species. Furthermore, they found that some strong ecological associations remain between some endemic plants (Erica azorica, Ilex perado subsp azorica, Juniperus brevifolia, Laurus azoricus and Vaccinium cylindraceum) and native insect herbivores, like the caterpillar Argyresthia atlanticella (Lepidoptera: Yponomeutidae) and the bug Kleidocerys ericae (Hemiptera: Lygaeidae). Nevertheless, further studies are needed to evaluate the role of plant chemistry in driving these associations and their vulnerability to the predicted climatic changes.
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