Potential Effects of Foundation Species Loss on Wetland Communities: A Case Study of Black Ash Wetlands Threatened by Emerald Ash Borer
The emerald ash borer (EAB; Agrilus planipennis) is an invasive beetle that causes almost complete mortality of ash trees (Fraxinus spp.) in North America and Europe. Northern temperate wetlands, where black ash (F. nigra) is a dominant and foundation species, will likely undergo dramat- ic shifts after EAB invasion. Utilizing published knowledge on amphibian and aquatic invertebrate responses to environ- mental gradients and the effects of ash loss on forest structure and function, we provide a mechanistic framework to discuss how changes in hydrology, canopy structure, and litter inputs could affect wetland communities. Changes in leaf litter could affect primary production and food web structure in the aquat- ic environment; overall changes in habitat structure might shift the community to species with longer aquatic stages that prefer open-canopy habitats. Amphibians and aquatic inverte- brates serve as linkages between aquatic and terrestrial eco- systems. Therefore, understanding how the abundance and functional diversity of these taxa change in response to EAB is necessary to understand whole ecosystem responses. Using a mechanistic framework to formulate hypotheses and predic- tions is vital for our ability to manage target systems, retain biodiversity, and sustain ecosystem function.