LESCANO Maria natalia
Exotic thistles increase native ant abundance through the maintenance of enhanced aphid populations
LESCANO, MARÍA NATALIA; FARJI-BRENER, ALEJANDRO
Año: 2011 vol. 26 p. 827 - 834
Exotic species change the structure and composition of invaded communities in multiple ways, but the sign of their impact on native species is still controversial. We evaluated the effects of the thistles Carduus thoermeri and Onopordum acanthium?two of the most abundant exotic plant species in disturbed areas of the Patagonian steppe?on the native tending ant assemblage. Exotic thistles showed an increased number of plants with aphids and had greater aphid density than native plants. Since native tending ants were present only in plants with aphids, their abundance was higher in infested thistles than in native plants. Path analyses confirmed that ant activity depended more on aphid density than on thistle traits. Our results suggest that the presence of exotic thistles in disturbed areas of NW Patagonia indirectly benefit the native ant assemblage through the maintenance of an increased aphid population. This illustrates how the impact of exotic on native species can depend on the ecological context.