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Revealing an Endemic Herbivore-Palm Interaction in Remote Desert Oases of Baja California

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DOI: 10.4236/ajps.2013.42A060    3,701 Downloads   5,497 Views   Citations

ABSTRACT

In the Central Desert of northern Baja California, blue fan palm populations (Brahea armata) are found as isolated oases on mountaintops and along canyons with ephemeral flow conditions. Here, the effect of the interaction between the larva of an endemic moth, Litoprosopus bajaensis, and this endemic blue fan palm was documented for the first time. We registered the phenology of palms by counting the number of shoots with flowers or fruits, assessing their damage and calculating the reproductive success per individual palm within three populations: San Pedro Martir, Catavi?a, and La Libertad. Palm populations were severely impacted by this larva, causing high damage to the inflorescences. No differences were found in the number of inflorescence stems produced and damaged among study sites; but the reproductive success of palms was significantly higher in Catavi?a than in the other sites during the entire sampling period, and consequently an important proportion of stems escaped from the herbivore predation. We suggest that differences among sites may be explained by the fact that Catavi?a is the only alluvial canyon and can be considered an area of high nutrient uptake, resource availability, and rooting depths. In contrast the other two are bedrock canyons, where water runs intensely, sweeping away great portions of the nearby vegetation. Catavi?a received the highest precipitation during the winter season of 2010 allowing a continuous production of inflorescence stems and fruits. This preliminary study reveals a new endemic interaction, it occurrence at population and regional levels, and highlights the role of desert oases as resource patches and connectivity pathways for mobile insects. Finally, it also highlights the effects of different water flow dynamics and water pulses in providing an opportunity window of escape from predation for host plant species living in desert environments.

Conflicts of Interest

The authors declare no conflicts of interest.

Cite this paper

E. Wehncke, X. López-Medellín, M. Wall and E. Ezcurra, "Revealing an Endemic Herbivore-Palm Interaction in Remote Desert Oases of Baja California," American Journal of Plant Sciences, Vol. 4 No. 2A, 2013, pp. 470-478. doi: 10.4236/ajps.2013.42A060.

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