Urban Ecosystems

, Volume 22, Issue 5, pp 907–916 | Cite as

Urbanization decreases the extent and variety of leaf herbivory for native canopy tree species Quercus rubra, Quercus alba, and Acer saccharum

  • Sheila K. SchuellerEmail author
  • Sophia Paul
  • Natalie Payer
  • Robin Schultze
  • M. Vikas


The extent to which urban trees can support associated biodiversity and provide ecosystem services depends on how urbanization affects the relationship between plants and the herbivorous arthropods that feed on them. Previous studies suggest that urbanization tends to increase the abundance, but decrease the diversity of herbivorous arthropods, but also reveal that this pattern may be an artifact of a narrow focus on pests and ornamental plants. We aimed to assess the effect of urbanization on whole leaf herbivore communities of three native canopy trees, red oak (Quercus rubra), white oak (Quercus alba), and sugar maple (Acer saccharum). For each species we compared the extent of herbivory (assessed as percent leaf loss) and diversity of herbivores (using the number of identifiable damage types as a proxy for feeding guild diversity) between sites in southeast Michigan that were more forested vs. more urbanized (with lower tree density and canopy coverage and higher percent hardscape and turf). We found that across all three species and sites compared, both the percent leaf area lost to herbivory and the number of different types of herbivory were consistently and significantly higher in forested than urbanized sites. While future studies are needed to confirm the mechanisms responsible, we conclude that at least for native canopy tree species, trees in more urbanized sites do not appear to experience higher herbivory, and instead support diminished herbivore communities compared to the same trees in a more forested setting.


Herbivory Urbanization Insects Feeding guilds Canopy trees Plant-insect interactions 



We thank data collection assistants Cria Kay, Vitor Machado Lira, Lingzi Liu, Elissa Mueller, Emily Nummer, and Ryan Moya. Maricela Avalos and Jane Immonen provided tree density information on sites. Dan Katz and Eliot Jackson gave valuable comments on earlier drafts of the manuscript. This project was an extension of laboratory activities in ecology which were funded in part by a donation from Greg Goldring in support of field-based learning opportunities at the University of Michigan School for Environment and Sustainability.


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© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.School for Environment and SustainabilityUniversity of MichiganAnn ArborUSA
  2. 2.Nelson Institute for Environmental StudiesUniversity of Wisconsin-MadisonMadisonUSA

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