Tree seedling establishment under insect herbivory: Edge effects and inter-annual variation

S. J. Meiners, S. N. Handel, S. T.A. Pickett

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

58 Scopus citations


As the density and species composition of insects may change in relation to distance from the forest edge, the role of herbivory in tree establishment may also change across edges. To determine the importance of insect herbivory in tree establishment, insect densities were experimentally altered at different distances from the forest edge. Plots were established at three distances from the edge, with plots located in forest, edge, and field habitats. In half of each plot, insect densities were reduced by insecticide application. Seeds of two tree species, Acer rubrum and Fraxinus americana, were planted into each plot in 1995. The experiment was repeated in 1996 with the addition of Quercus palustris and Quercus rubra. Distance from the forest edge was the most important factor in determining seedling emergence and mortality. Overall seedling performance increased from field to edge to woods, although responses varied among species. In 1995, a drought year, insect removal increased emergence and decreased mortality of tree seedlings. In 1996, a year with normal precipitation, insect removal had much less effect on A. rubrum and F. americana. For the two Quercus species, mortality was reduced by insect removal. The tree species differed in their susceptibility to insect herbivory, with Acer rubrum the most susceptible and Fraxinus americana the least. Herbivory by insects was shown to have the potential to affect both the composition and spatial pattern of tree invasions. Herbivore importance differed greatly between the two years of the study, making the interaction between insects and tree seedlings variable both in space and time.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)161-170
Number of pages10
JournalPlant Ecology
Issue number2
StatePublished - 2000

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Ecology
  • Plant Science


  • Acer
  • Drought
  • Fraxinus
  • Old field succession
  • Quercus
  • Spatial pattern


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