An invasive plant has been gradually folded into an ecosystem's food webs.
Menno Schilthuizen at the Naturalis Biodiversity Center in Leiden, the Netherlands, and his colleagues sampled insects from native bird cherry trees (Prunus padas) and exotic black cherry trees (Prunus serotina) in a Dutch national park. They found that the non-natives had around one-quarter of the number of insects on them, but almost twice the species diversity, compared with the native trees. The team also looked at preserved leaf specimens and found that the proportion of insect-eaten bird cherry leaves has remained stable at about 35% over the past 170 years, but that the proportion of invasive black cherry leaves consumed has increased from 18.8% to 40.6%.
This adaptation could slow the exotic plant's aggressive spread — and efforts to control this by removing a proportion of the population may delay this process, the authors say.