Bromeliad-associated reductions in host herbivory; do epiphytic bromeliads act as commensalists or mutualists?
agro-ecology, ants, bromeliad, community ecology, herbivory, indirect effects, mutualism, predator facilitation
Many members of the family Bromeliacae are able to adopt epiphytic lifestyles and colonize trees throughout the Neotropics. Bromeliacaedo not extract nutrients from their hosts and confer relatively minor costs on their host plants. We suggest that bromeliads, however,may beneﬁt their hosts by providing habitat for predators of host plant herbivores. We report a correlation between bromeliad presenceand a reduction in herbivore damage in orange trees, an effect that is increased when bromeliads are colonized by ants. Our results mayhave important implications for agricultural systems in the Neotropics, where bromeliads are often removed in the belief they are para-sitic. We instead demonstrate that bromeliads may impart a beneﬁt to their hosts, and speculate that under particular circumstances theymay be part of a three-species mutualism.
Hammill, E., Corvalan, P. and Srivastava, D. S. 2014. Bromeliad-associated reductions in host herbivory; do epiphytic bromeliads act as commensalists or mutualists? Biotropica. 46 (1): 78-82.