Local shifts in floral biotic interactions in habitat edges and their effect on quantity and quality of plant offspring.
ABSTRACT: Spatial shifts in insect fauna due to ecological heterogeneity can severely constrain plant reproduction. Nonetheless, data showing effects of insect visit patterns and intensity of mutualistic and/or antagonistic plant-insect interactions on plant reproduction over structured ecological gradients remain scarce. We investigated how changes in flower-visitor abundance, identity and behaviour over a forest-open habitat gradient affect plant biotic interactions, and quantitative and qualitative fitness in the edge-specialist Dianthus balbisii. Composition and behaviour of the insects visiting flowers of D. balbisii strongly varied over the study gradient, influencing strength and patterns of plant biotic interactions (i.e. herbivory and pollination likelihood). Seed set comparison in free- and manually pollinated flowers suggested spatial variations in the extent of quantitative pollen limitation, which appeared more pronounced at the gradient extremes. Such variations were congruent to patterns of flower visit and plant biotic interactions. The analyses on seed and seedling viability evidenced that spatial variation in amount and type of pollinators, and frequency of herbivory affected qualitative fitness of D. balbisii by influencing selfing and outcrossing rates. Our work emphasizes the role of plant biotic interactions as a fine-scale mediator of plant fitness in ecotones, highlighting that optimal plant reproduction can take place into a restricted interval of the ecological gradients occurring at forest edges. Reducing the habitat complexity typical of such transition contexts can threat edge-adapted plants.
Project description:Insect herbivory is pervasive in plant communities, but its impact on microbial plant colonizers is not well-studied in natural systems. By calibrating sequencing-based bacterial detection to absolute bacterial load, we find that the within-host abundance of most leaf microbiome (phyllosphere) taxa colonizing a native forb is amplified within leaves affected by insect herbivory. Herbivore-associated bacterial amplification reflects community-wide compositional shifts towards lower ecological diversity, but the extent and direction of such compositional shifts can be interpreted only by quantifying absolute abundance. Experimentally eliciting anti-herbivore defences reshaped within-host fitness ranks among Pseudomonas spp. field isolates and amplified a subset of putatively phytopathogenic P. syringae in a manner causally consistent with observed field-scale patterns. Herbivore damage was inversely correlated with plant reproductive success and was highly clustered across plants, which predicts tight co-clustering with putative phytopathogens across hosts. Insect herbivory may thus drive the epidemiology of plant-infecting bacteria as well as the structure of a native plant microbiome by generating variation in within-host bacterial fitness at multiple phylogenetic and spatial scales. This study emphasizes that 'non-focal' biotic interactions between hosts and other organisms in their ecological settings can be crucial drivers of the population and community dynamics of host-associated microbiomes.
Project description:Biotic stress can induce plastic changes in fitness-relevant plant traits. Recently, it has been shown that such changes can be transmitted to subsequent generations. However, the occurrence and extent of transmission across different types of traits is still unexplored. Here, we assessed the emergence and transmission of herbivory-induced changes in Brassica rapa and their impact on interactions with insects. We analysed changes in morphology and reproductive traits as well as in flower and leaf volatile emission during two generations with leaf herbivory by Mamestra brassicae and Pieris brassicae and two subsequent generations without herbivory. Herbivory induced changes in all trait types, increasing attractiveness of the plants to the parasitoid wasp Cotesia glomerata and decreasing visitation by the pollinator Bombus terrestris, a potential trade-off. While changes in floral and leaf volatiles disappeared in the first generation after herbivory, some changes in morphology and reproductive traits were still measurable two generations after herbivory. However, neither parasitoids nor pollinators further discriminated between groups with different past treatments. Our results suggest that transmission of herbivore-induced changes occurs preferentially in resource-limited traits connected to plant growth and reproduction. The lack of alterations in plant-insect interactions was likely due to the transient nature of volatile changes.
Project description:BACKGROUND AND AIMS:Herbivory on floral structures has been postulated to influence the evolution of floral traits in some plant species, and may also be an important factor influencing the occurrence and outcome of subsequent biotic interactions related to floral display. In particular, corolla herbivory may affect structures differentially involved in flower selection by pollinators and fruit predators (specifically, those ovopositing in ovaries prior to fruit development); hence floral herbivores may influence the relationships between these mutualistic and antagonistic agents. METHODS:The effects of corolla herbivory in Linaria lilacina (Scrophulariaceae), a plant species with complex flowers, were considered in relation to plant interactions with pollinators and fruit predators. Tests were made as to whether experimentally created differences in flower structure (resembling those occurring naturally) may translate into differences in reproductive output in terms of fruit or seed production. KEY RESULTS:Flowers with modified corollas, particularly those with lower lips removed, were less likely to be selected by pollinators than control flowers, and were less likely to be successfully visited and pollinated. As a consequence, fruit production was also less likely in these modified flowers. However, none of the experimental treatments affected the likelihood of visitation by fruit predators. CONCLUSIONS:Since floral herbivory may affect pollinator visitation rates and reduce seed production, differences among plants in the proportion of flowers affected by herbivory and in the intensity of the damage inflicted on affected flowers may result in different opportunities for reproduction for plants in different seasons.
Project description:Urban environments expose species to contrasting selection pressures relative to rural areas due to altered microclimatic conditions, habitat fragmentation, and changes in species interactions. To improve our understanding on how urbanization impacts selection through biotic interactions, we assessed differences in plant defense and tolerance, dispersal, and flowering phenology of a common plant species (Taraxacum officinale) along an urbanization gradient and their reaction norms in response to a biotic stressor (i.e., herbivory). We raised plants from 45 lines collected along an urbanization gradient under common garden conditions and assessed the impact of herbivory on plant growth (i.e., aboveground biomass), dispersal capacity (i.e., seed morphology), and plant phenology (i.e., early seed production) by exposing half of our plants to two events of herbivory (i.e., grazing by locusts). Independent from their genetic background, all plants consistently increased their resistance to herbivores by which the second exposure to locusts resulted in lower levels of damage suffered. Herbivory had consistent effects on seed pappus length, with seeds showing a longer pappus (and, hence, increased dispersal capacities) regardless of urbanization level. Aboveground plant biomass was neither affected by urbanization nor herbivore presence. In contrast to consistent responses in plant defenses and pappus length, plant fitness did vary between lines. Urban lines had a reduced early seed production following herbivory while rural and suburban lines did not show any plastic response. Our results show that herbivory affects plant phenotypes but more importantly that differences in herbivory reaction norms exist between urban and rural populations.
Project description:Plants show ontogenetic variation in growth-defence strategies to maximize reproductive output within a community context. Most work on plant ontogenetic variation in growth-defence trade-offs has focussed on interactions with antagonistic insect herbivores. Plants respond to herbivore attack with phenotypic changes. Despite the knowledge that plant responses to herbivory affect plant mutualistic interactions with pollinators required for reproduction, indirect interactions between herbivores and pollinators have not been included in the evaluation of how ontogenetic growth-defence trajectories affect plant fitness.In a common garden experiment with the annual Brassica nigra, we investigated whether exposure to various herbivore species on different plant ontogenetic stages (vegetative, bud or flowering stage) affects plant flowering traits, interactions with flower visitors and results in fitness consequences for the plant.Effects of herbivory on flowering plant traits and interactions with flower visitors depended on plant ontogeny. Plant exposure in the vegetative stage to the caterpillar Pieris brassicae and aphid Brevicoryne brassicae led to reduced flowering time and flower production, and resulted in reduced pollinator attraction, pollen beetle colonization, total seed production and seed weight. When plants had buds, infestation by most herbivore species tested reduced flower production and pollen beetle colonization. Pollinator attraction was either increased or reduced. Plants infested in the flowering stage with P. brassicae or Lipaphis erysimi flowered longer, while infestation by any of the herbivore species tested increased the number of flower visits by pollinators.Our results show that the outcome of herbivore-flower visitor interactions in B. nigra is specific for the combination of herbivore species and plant ontogenetic stage. Consequences of herbivory for flowering traits and reproductive output were strongest when plants were attacked early in life. Such differences in selection pressures imposed by herbivores to specific plant ontogenetic stages may drive the evolution of distinct ontogenetic trajectories in growth-defence-reproduction strategies and include indirect interactions between herbivores and flower visitors. Synthesis. Plant ontogeny can define the direct and indirect consequences of herbivory. Our study shows that the ontogenetic stage of plant individuals determined the effects of herbivory on plant flowering traits, interactions with flower visitors and plant fitness.
Project description:Plant phenotypic plasticity in response to antagonists can affect other community members such as mutualists, conferring potential ecological costs associated with inducible plant defence. For flowering plants, induction of defences to deal with herbivores can lead to disruption of plant-pollinator interactions. Current knowledge on the full extent of herbivore-induced changes in flower traits is limited, and we know little about specificity of induction of flower traits and specificity of effect on flower visitors. We exposed flowering Brassica nigra plants to six insect herbivore species and recorded changes in flower traits (flower abundance, morphology, colour, volatile emission, nectar quantity, and pollen quantity and size) and the behaviour of two pollinating insects. Our results show that herbivory can affect multiple flower traits and pollinator behaviour. Most plastic floral traits were flower morphology, colour, the composition of the volatile blend, and nectar production. Herbivore-induced changes in flower traits resulted in positive, negative, or neutral effects on pollinator behaviour. Effects on flower traits and pollinator behaviour were herbivore species-specific. Flowers show extensive plasticity in response to antagonist herbivores, with contrasting effects on mutualist pollinators. Antagonists can potentially act as agents of selection on flower traits and plant reproduction via plant-mediated interactions with mutualists.
Project description:Plants have the capacity to alter their phenotype in response to environmental factors, such as herbivory, a phenomenon called phenotypic plasticity. However, little is known on how plant responses to herbivory are modulated by environmental variation along ecological gradients. To investigate this question, we used bilberry (Vaccinium myrtillus L.) plants and an experimental treatment to induce plant defenses (i.e., application of methyl jasmonate; MeJA), to observe ecological responses and gene expression changes along an elevational gradient in a boreal system in western Norway. The gradient included optimal growing conditions for bilberry in this region (ca. 500 m a.s.l.), and the plant's range limits at high (ca. 900 m a.s.l.) and low (100 m a.s.l.) elevations. Across all altitudinal sites, MeJA-treated plants allocated more resources to herbivory resistance while reducing growth and reproduction than control plants, but this response was more pronounced at the lowest elevation. High-elevation plants growing under less herbivory pressure but more resource-limiting conditions exhibited consistently high expression levels of defense genes in both MeJA-treated and untreated plants at all times, suggesting a constant state of "alert." These results suggest that plant defense responses at both the molecular and ecological levels are modulated by the combination of climate and herbivory pressure, such that plants under different environmental conditions differentially direct the resources available to specific antiherbivore strategies. Our findings are important for understanding the complex impact of future climate changes on plant-herbivore interactions, as this is a major driver of ecosystem functioning and biodiversity.
Project description:Climate change can affect biotic interactions, and the impacts of climate on biotic interactions may vary across climate gradients. Climate affects biotic interactions through multiple drivers, although few studies have investigated multiple climate drivers in experiments. We examined the effects of experimental watering, warming, and predator access on leaf water content and herbivory rates of woolly bear caterpillars (<i>Arctia virginalis</i>) on a native perennial plant, pacific silverweed (<i>Argentina anserina ssp. pacifica</i>), at two sites across a gradient of precipitation in coastal California. Based on theory, we predicted that watering should increase herbivory at the drier end of the gradient, predation should decrease herbivory, and watering and warming should have positive interacting effects on herbivory. Consistent with our predictions, we found that watering only increased herbivory under drier conditions. However, watering increased leaf water content at both wetter and drier sites. Warming increased herbivory irrespective of local climate and did not interact with watering. Predation did not affect herbivory rates. Given predictions that the study locales will become warmer and drier with climate change, our results suggest that the effects of future warming and drying on herbivory may counteract each other in drier regions of the range of <i>Argentina anserina</i>. Our findings suggest a useful role for range-limit theory and the stress-gradient hypothesis in predicting climate change effects on herbivory across stress gradients. Specifically, if climate change decreases stress, herbivory may increase, and vice versa for increasing stress. In addition, our work supports previous suggestions that multiple climate drivers are likely to have dampening effects on biotic interactions due to effects in different directions, though this is context-dependent.
Project description:Costs and benefits for partners in mutualistic interactions can vary greatly, but surprisingly little is known about the factors that drive this variation across systems. We conducted a meta-analysis of ant-plant protective mutualisms to quantify the effects of ant defenders on plant reproductive output, to evaluate if reproductive effects were predicted from reductions in herbivory and to identify characteristics of the plants, ants and environment that explained variation in ant protection. We also compared our approach with two other recent meta-analyses on ant-plant mutualisms, emphasizing differences in our methodology (using a weighted linear mixed effects model) and our focus on plant reproduction rather than herbivore damage. Based on 59 ant and plant species pairs, ant presence increased plant reproductive output by 49% and reduced herbivory by 62%. The effects on herbivory and reproduction within systems were positively correlated, but the slope of this relationship (0.75) indicated that tolerance to foliar herbivory may be a common plant response to absence of ant guards. Furthermore, the relationship between foliar damage and reproduction varied substantially among systems, suggesting that herbivore damage is not a reliable surrogate for fitness consequences of ant protection. Studies that experimentally excluded ants reported a smaller effect of ant protection on plant reproduction than studies that relied upon natural variation in ant presence, suggesting that study methods can affect results in these systems. Of the ecological variables included in our analysis, only plant life history (i.e., annual or perennial) explained variation in the protective benefit of mutualistic ants: presence of ants benefitted reproduction of perennials significantly more than that of annuals. These results contrast with other quantitative reviews of these relationships that did not include plant life history as an explanatory factor and raise several questions to guide future research on ant-plant protection mutualisms.
Project description:Plant fitness is often a result of both sexual and asexual reproductive success and, in perennial plants, over several years. Folivory can affect both modes of reproduction. However, little is known about the effects of folivory on resource allocation to the two modes of reproduction simultaneously and across years. In a 2-year common garden experiment, we examined the effects of different levels of folivory by the strawberry leaf beetle, Galerucella tenella, on current growth, as well as current and future sexual and asexual reproduction (runners) of perennial woodland strawberry, Fragaria vesca. In addition, we measured the chlorophyll content in leaves in the year of experimental damage to determine whether there was increased photosynthetic activity, and, thus, a compensatory response to herbivory. Finally, we tested whether the previous year's folivory, as a result of its effect on plant fitness, affected the level of natural herbivory the plant experienced during the subsequent year. In the year of experimental damage, plants that were exposed to moderate and high levels of folivory (25% and 50% leaf area consumed, respectively) increased their photosynthetic activity compared to control plants. However, only plants exposed to high folivory exhibited negative effects, with a lower probability of flowering compared to control plants, indicating that plants exposed to low or moderate folivory were able to compensate for the damage. Negative effects of folivory were carried over to the subsequent year. Plants that were exposed to moderate folivory (25% leaf area consumed) during first year produced fewer flowers and fruits in the subsequent year. Runner production was consistently unaffected by folivory. The effects of experimental folivory on the level of natural herbivory were mediated via its effects on plant fitness. Our results show that the negative effects of folivory only influence sexual reproduction in woodland strawberry. Furthermore, even though woodland strawberry can tolerate moderate amounts of folivory in the short term, the negative effects on fitness appear later; this highlights the importance of studying the effects of herbivory over consecutive years in perennial plants.