Herbivores, but not other insects, are scarce on alien plants
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Understanding how the landscape-scale replacement of indigenous plants with alien plants influences ecosystem structure and functioning is critical in a world characterized by increasing biotic homogenization. An important step in this process is to assess the impact on invertebrate communities. Here we analyse insect species richness and abundance in sweep collections from indigenous and alien (Australasian) woody plant species in South Africa’s Western Cape. We use phylogenetically relevant comparisons and compare one indigenous with three Australasian alien trees within each of Fabaceae: Mimosoideae, Myrtaceae, and Proteaceae: Grevilleoideae. Although some of the alien species analysed had remarkably high abundances of herbivores, even when intentionally introduced biological control agents are discounted, overall, herbivorous insect assemblages from alien plants were slightly less abundant and less diverse compared with those from indigenous plants – in accordance with predictions from the enemy release hypothesis. However, there were no clear differences in other insect feeding guilds.We conclude that insect assemblages from alien plants are generally quite diverse, and significant differences between these and assemblages from indigenous plants are only evident for herbivorous insects.