An arsenic hyperaccumulating fern, Pteris vittata L. (Pteridaceae) broadly affects terrestrial invertebrate abundance

Benjamin D. Jaffe, Michael E. Ketterer, David S. Smith

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Scopus citations


1. The Chinese brake fern (Pteris vittata L.; Pteridaceae) can accumulate up to 27 000 mg kg−1 dry wt. of arsenic (As) from the soil into its above-ground biomass. They may use this As to deter invertebrate threats. 2. This study explored how As concentrations [As] in the fern, and in soil associated with the fern, influenced the abundance and composition of various invertebrates. 3. Populations of P. vittata were identified in the field. Soils from the base of the fern and from 3 m away of each plant were collected and pitfall traps were installed. Soil and fern arsenic concentrations ([As]) were measured via inductively coupled plasma mass spectrometry and invertebrates were identified to order and classified by feeding guild. 4. Increased [As] did not affect all feeding guilds and orders equally. For example, individual herbivore abundance did not decrease as [As] increased, but predator abundance did. In many cases, the impact of soil [As] on invertebrates depended on the distance from the fern. Fern [As] also influenced components of the community, but only at 3 m away from the fern. Furthermore, the abundances of many invertebrate groups were higher beneath the fern, where [As] was higher. 5. These results suggest that hyperaccumulated As can impact the invertebrate community, but the defensive benefits of hyperaccumulation are more complex than have been previously described. The authors advocate that future studies examining the potential defensive benefits of hyperaccumulation should do so in a natural setting that incorporates this complexity and invertebrate richness.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)76-84
Number of pages9
JournalEcological Entomology
Issue number1
StatePublished - Feb 1 2018


  • Arsenic
  • Chinese brake fern (Pteris vittata)
  • community composition
  • elemental defensc
  • hyperaccumulation
  • terrestrial invertebrates

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology
  • Insect Science


Dive into the research topics of 'An arsenic hyperaccumulating fern, Pteris vittata L. (Pteridaceae) broadly affects terrestrial invertebrate abundance'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this