Ecological correlates : endophagous insects and plants in fynbos.
The objective of this study was to investigate endophagous insect species richness in Fynbos. The influences of plants as determinants of insect occurrence were given special attention. The endophagous insects associated with Proteaceae in Fynbos were compared to endophage assemblages from northern, non-Capensis Proteaceae. The Cape Fynbos genus Protea is utilized by many more insect taxa than the non-Fynbos species. The high diversity of host plants in Fynbos appears to have contributed to generating high, local endophagous insect diversity. Influences of regional climate, biotope and host-plant characteristics on the frequency of occurrence of insect borers exploiting Protea species was investigated in Fynbos. Distinct differences in frequency of encounter of the various insect taxa were recorded for the various host-plants studied. This variability was primarily accounted for by physical host-plant characteristics (infructescence and seed-set variables). These findings have important implications for evolution of insects associated with these plants, as well as for the conservation of insects and in pest control programmes on indigenous cut flowers. The relative species richness of endophagous and ectophagous insects in Fynbos was compared. Gall-forming insects (Diptera: Cecidomyiidae), were found to be considerably more speciose than other feeding guilds, showing that the ratio of endophages to ectophages in sclerophyllous vegetation types is high. The intimate relationship that endophagous insects have with their host plants tends to habitat specialization. These insects are therefore likely to undergo radiation together with their host-plants. Species richness of gall-insects in Fynbos was investigated to establish whether insect richness was proportional to plant species richness. The relationship between gall-insect species richness and plant-species richness was investigated. Fynbos harboured more gall-insect species than other Cape Floristic Region vegetation types. Gall-insect species richness was positively correlated with plant-species richness. Plant species richness appears to have contributed to the evolution of a rich gall-insect fauna in the region. Fynbos gall-insect species richness is comparable to other sclerophyllous vegetation types globally, underscoring the importance of this vegetation type as a centre of galler diversification. Finally, the importance of plant species richness as a determinant of gall-insect species richness was investigated by comparing different sclerophyllous vegetation types under the same climatic conditions. Gall were sampled from Fynbos and Karoo vegetation. Fynbos had higher gall-insect species richness, correlated with plant-species richness. Plant-species richness, or the distal factors that generated it, appear to have contributed significantly to the radiation of gall-insects in this region.