Across the United States, invasive plant species have had significant negative environmental effects due to certain unique characteristics they possess. Extended leaf phenology allows invasive plants to retain their leaves longer during the late summer and fall months, outcompete native plant species and provide cover for seed predators that would be vulnerable under its absence. Our past research concluded that the extended leaf phenology of invasive plant species Lonicera maackii (Amur Honeysuckle) reduced seed predation, which may be due to cooler and less favorable microclimates for invertebrate seed predators. In Fall 2019, we conducted a field experiment to observe the microhabitat preferences of snails. Snails consume leaves, fruits, and seeds, as well as being sensitive to the temperature, moisture, humidity, and light of their surrounding environment. In our study, we selected six pairs of invasive L. maackii and native Cornus racemosa (Gray Dogwood) throughout the Roemer Arboretum located in Geneseo, New York. Pairs were selected so both native and invasive species were in close enough proximity to receive the same environmental conditions (within 1 m of each other). Twice weekly, we recorded temperature, relative humidity, air velocity, light, soil pH, and soil moisture along with the number and size of snails found on the plant and within 0.3 m of its surrounding leaf litter. Preliminary results suggest that snail microhabitat preference was nonrandom with respect to the extended leaf phenology that L. maackii exhibits. We conducted a follow-up experiment to observe snail habitat preference in indoor enclosures. The snails were given the options between native and invasive leaves and branches, leaf litter from the field containing a mix of both native and invasive leaves, and individual leaf species litter (native and invasive separate). The snails moved from the native to the invasive environment and vice-versa, their movements appearing to be complex and variable but suggest preferences may be present. Thus, plant leaf traits appear to be an important factor in shaping microhabitat preferences for snails in invaded plant communities. As the overall vegetative diversity decreases due to invasive plant species, increased shifts in microhabitat preference is likely to occur.
Sponsored by Suann Yang
"A Comparison of Native and Invasive Plant Species Microhabitats in Western New York,"
Proceedings of GREAT Day: Vol. 2020, Article 5.
Available at: https://knightscholar.geneseo.edu/proceedings-of-great-day/vol2020/iss1/5