Forest fragmentation alters plant-animal interactions, including herbivory. Relying manipulative experiments, we test if the reduction in insect herbivory associated with forest fragmentation translates into increased seedling growth and survival of three tree common species (Aristotelia chilensis, Cryptocarya alba and Persea lingue) in forest fragments and continuous forests in coastal Maulino forest, central Chile. Furthermore, we test if after protecting seedlings from herbivorous insects, plant performance is increased regardless of forest fragmentation. Nursery grown seedlings were transplanted into four forest fragments and a continuous forest during 2002. Insects, important herbivores in this forest, were excluded from half the seedlings by repeated applications of insecticides. Compared to continuous forests, in forest fragments, herbivory was reduced in all three species, seedling growth was greater in A. chilensis and C. alba but not in P. lingue, and survivorship was unaffected by herbivory or fragmentation in all three species. Protecting seedlings from insects reduced herbivory in the continuous forest to similar levels attained in the forest fragments. No change in herbivory results from by protecting seedlings in forest fragments. These results confirm that insects are important herbivores in the Maulino forest and also support the hypothesis that fragmentation can have strong indirect effects on plant communities as mediated through trophic interactions.
- Habitat fragmentation
- Seedling growth and survival