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Elevated Levels of Herbivory in Urban Landscapes: Are Declines in Tree Health More Than an Edge Effect?

Fiona J Christie, University of Sydney
Dieter F Hochuli, University of Sydney

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Abstract

Urbanization is one of the most extreme and rapidly growing anthropogenic pressures on the natural world. Urban development has led to substantial fragmentation of areas of natural habitat, resulting in significant impacts on biodiversity and disruptions to ecological processes. We investigated the levels of leaf damage caused by invertebrates in a dominant canopy species in urban remnants in a highly fragmented urban landscape in Sydney, Australia, by assessing the frequency and extent of chewing and surface damage of leaves in urban remnants compared to the edges and interiors of continuous areas of vegetation. Although no difference was detected in the frequency of leaves showing signs of damage at small, edge, and interior sites, small sites suffered significantly greater levels of leaf damage than did interior sites. Trees at edge sites showed intermediate levels of damage, suggesting that edge effects alone are not the cause of higher levels of herbivory. These findings are the first to demonstrate the effects of urbanization on invertebrate damage in dominant trees at coarse scales. This is consistent with hypotheses predicting that changes in species composition through urban fragmentation affect ecological interactions.

Key words

urban landscapes; herbivory; invertebrates; urbanization; remnant vegetation; fragmentation; leaf damage; Australia
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Ecology and Society. ISSN: 1708-3087