Habitat Structure Affects Reproductive Success of the Rare Endemic Tree Syzygium mamillatum (Myrtaceae) in Restored and Unrestored Sites in Mauritius
Invasive alien plants affect the functioning of ecosystems by altering plant–animal interactions, such as pollination, which may impede natural regeneration of native plant species. In Mauritius, we studied the reproductive traits and pollination ecology of the rare endemic cauliflorous tree Syzygium mamillatum in a restored forest (all alien plant species removed) and an adjacent unrestored area (degraded by alien plants). Flowers of S. mamillatum were only visited by generalist bird species. Although the initial number of flower buds per tree in the restored forest tended to be higher than that of trees in the unrestored area, final fruit set and the number of seeds per fruit were lower in the restored forest. This corresponded with lower bird visitation rates in the restored area. Additionally, during budding stage, most trees were severely attacked by lepidopteran larvae, and bud loss through herbivory was higher in the restored forest. Thus, the difference in reproductive performance of S. mamillatum between the two localities was caused by contrasting herbivore attack and bird visitation behavior in restored and unrestored areas. Our findings illustrate the importance of restoration efforts in mimicking the original physical structure of habitats and interaction structure of interspecific relationships, and the difficulty of doing so given the imperfect knowledge and the reality that many native species have become locally extinct and replaced by exotic species.