Great Hollow Research Shows Japanese Barberry is No Friend to Insects

For the past three years, Great Hollow has been conducting a series of studies to identify the ecological impacts of one of our region’s most invasive plants, Japanese barberry. Introduced from Asia in the late 1800s as an ornamental shrub and still widely sold at garden centers today, Japanese barberry has spread uncontrollably throughout Northeastern forests with unknown consequences for wildlife and ecosystem function. We began our work by examining the effects of Japanese barberry on the abundance and species composition of invertebrates (beetles, ants, caterpillars, and the like), which play incredibly important roles in the forest ecosystem and form the foundation of the food web. The study, published last week in the journal Environmental Entomology, found that invertebrates were significantly less abundant and diverse in areas of the forest where Japanese barberry is dense than in areas where native vegetation is still dominant. Predatory invertebrates like ants and spiders were especially scarce in barberry-invaded habitat, which could be one of the factors contributing the the increased abundance of ticks that other researchers have previously shown to be associated with Japanese barberry. The significant shifts in invertebrate abundance and community composition that we observed raise concerns about potential rippling effects up the food web to other wildlife, and is something that we are now studying. This is Great Hollow’s seventh peer-reviewed publication and can be read in full here. Also check out stories about the research on the science news sites, Entomology Today and Phys.org

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