Rego, C., Boieiro, M., Rigal, F., Ribeiro, S.P., Cardoso, P. & Borges, P.A.V. (2019) Taxonomic and functional diversity of insect herbivore assemblages associated with the canopy-dominant trees of the Azorean native forest.PLOS One, 14(7), e0219493. DOI:10.1371/journal.pone.0219493 (IF2017 2,766; Q1 Multidisciplinary Sciences)
Oceanic islands have been providing important insights on the structuring of ecological communities and, under the context of the present biodiversity crisis, they are paramount to assess the effects of biological invasions on community assembly. In this study we compare the taxonomic and functional diversity of insect herbivore assemblages associated with the dominant tree species of Azorean native forests and investigate the ecological processes that may have originated current patterns of plant-herbivore associations. Five dominant trees-Erica azorica, Ilex perado subsp. azorica, Juniperus brevifolia, Laurus azorica and Vaccinium cylindraceum-were sampled in the remnants of the native forest of Terceira Island (Azores) using a standardised methodology. The taxonomic and functional diversity of insect herbivore assemblages was assessed using complementary metrics and beta diversity partitioning analysis (species replacement and richness differences) aiming to evaluate the variation in insect herbivore assemblages within and between the study plant species. Sixty two insect species, mostly bugs (Hemiptera) and caterpillars (Lepidoptera), were found in the five study plants with indigenous (endemic and native non-endemic) insects occurring with higher species richness and abundance than introduced ones. Species replacement was the most important component of insect herbivore taxonomic beta diversity while differences in trait richness played a major role on functional beta diversity. The endemic E. azorica stands out from the other study plants by having associated a very distinct insect herbivore assemblage with a particular set of functional attributes, mainly composed by large bodied and long shaped species that feed by chewing. Despite the progressive biotic homogenization witnessed in the Azores during the last few decades, several strong associations between the endemic trees and their indigenous insect herbivores remain.