Introduced plants as novel Anthropocene habitats for insects

Padovani Roberto J.
Salisbury Andrew
Bostock Helen
Roy David B.
Thomas Chris D.

Abstract Major environmental changes in the history of life on Earth have given rise to novel habitats, which gradually accumulate species. Human-induced change is no exception, yet the rules governing species accumulation in anthropogenic habitats are not fully developed. Here we propose that nonnative plants introduced to Great Britain may function as analogues of novel anthropogenic habitats for insects and mites, analysing a combination of local-scale experimental plot data and geographic-scale data contained within the Great Britain Database of Insects and their Food Plants. We find that novel plant habitats accumulate the greatest diversity of insect taxa when they are widespread and show some resemblance to plant habitats which have been present historically (based on the relatedness between native and nonnative plant species), with insect generalists colonizing from a wider range of sources. Despite reduced per-plant diversity, nonnative plants can support distinctive insect communities, sometimes including insect taxa that are otherwise rare or absent. Thus, novel plant habitats may contribute to, and potentially maintain, broader-scale (assemblage) diversity in regions that contain mixtures of long-standing and novel plant habitats.

Year of Publication
Global Change Biology
Number of Pages
Research themes