Project description:Insect herbivores can shift the composition of a plant community, but the mechanism underlying such shifts remains largely unexplored. A possibility is that insects alter the competitive symmetry between plant species. The effect of herbivory on competition likely depends on whether the plants are subjected to aboveground or belowground herbivory or both, and also depends on soil nitrogen levels. It is unclear how these biotic and abiotic factors interactively affect competition. In a greenhouse experiment, we measured competition between two coexisting grass species that respond differently to nitrogen deposition: Dactylis glomerata L., which is competitively favoured by nitrogen addition, and Festuca rubra L., which is competitively favoured on nitrogen-poor soils. We predicted: (1) that aboveground herbivory would reduce competitive asymmetry at high soil nitrogen by reducing the competitive advantage of D. glomerata; and (2), that belowground herbivory would relax competition at low soil nitrogen, by reducing the competitive advantage of F. rubra. Aboveground herbivory caused a 46% decrease in the competitive ability of F. rubra, and a 23% increase in that of D. glomerata, thus increasing competitive asymmetry, independently of soil nitrogen level. Belowground herbivory did not affect competitive symmetry, but the combined influence of above- and belowground herbivory was weaker than predicted from their individual effects. Belowground herbivory thus mitigated the increased competitive asymmetry caused by aboveground herbivory. D. glomerata remained competitively dominant after the cessation of aboveground herbivory, showing that the influence of herbivory continued beyond the feeding period. We showed that insect herbivory can strongly influence plant competitive interactions. In our experimental plant community, aboveground insect herbivory increased the risk of competitive exclusion of F. rubra. Belowground herbivory appeared to mitigate the influence of aboveground herbivory, and this mechanism may play a role for plant species coexistence.
Project description:To cope with heterogeneous environments and resource distributions, filamentous fungi have evolved a spatially extensive growth enabling their hyphae to penetrate air-water interfaces and pass through air-filled pores. Such mycelia are also known to act as dispersal networks for the mobilisation of bacteria ('fungal highways') and connection of microbial microhabitats. Hitherto, however, nothing is known about the effect of mycelia-based dispersal on interactions between bacterial predators and their prey and concomitant effects on biomass formation. We here hypothesise that mycelia enable the contact between predators and their prey and shape a prey's population. We investigated the impact of predation by Bdellovibrio bacteriovorus 109J on the growth of its potential prey Pseudomonas fluorescens LP6a in the presence of mycelia. Our data give evidence that hyphae increase the accessibility of the prey to B. bacteriovorus 109J and, hence, allow for efficient foraging and shaping of prey populations not seen in the absence of mycelia. To test our hypothesis tailored microbial landscapes were used for better reduction of emerging properties in complex systems. Our data suggest that mycelia have substantial influence on prey-predator relationship and hereby may promote the structure of prey and predator populations and, hence, may be a determinant for biomass formation in heterogeneous environments.
Project description:Fire, herbivory and their interaction influence plant community dynamics. However, little is known about the influence of prefire herbivory on postfire plant community response, particularly long-term resistance to postfire exotic plant invasion in areas that historically experienced limited large herbivore pressure and infrequent, periodic fires.We investigated the long-term postfire effects of prefire herbivory by cattle, an exotic herbivore, in Artemisia (sagebrush) plant communities in the northern Great Basin, USA. Study areas were moderately grazed or not grazed by cattle since 1936 and then were burned in 1993. Plant community response was measured the 19th through the 22nd year postfire. Prior to burning exotic annual grass presence was minimal (<0.5% foliar cover) and plant community characteristics were similar between grazed and ungrazed treatments, with the exception of litter biomass being two times greater in the ungrazed treatment.Two decades postfire, Bromus tectorum L., an exotic annual grass, dominated the ungrazed treatment. Native bunchgrasses, species richness, and soil biological crusts were greater in prefire grazed areas compared to ungrazed areas.These results suggest that moderate prefire herbivory by cattle increased the resistance of the plant community to postfire invasion and dominance by B. tectorum. We presume that herbivory reduced mortality of large perennial bunchgrasses during the fire by reducing fine fuel (litter) and subsequently burn temperatures.This research demonstrates that a moderate disturbance (herbivory) may mediate the effects of a subsequent disturbance (fire). The effects of disturbances are not independent; therefore quantifying these interactions is critical to preventing oversimplification of complex plant community dynamics and guiding the conservation of endangered ecosystems.
Project description:Fire and herbivory are the two consumers of above-ground biomass globally. They have contrasting impacts as they differ in terms of selectivity and temporal occurrence. Here, we integrate continental-scale data on fire and herbivory in Africa to explore (i) how environmental drivers constrain these two consumers and (ii) the degree to which each consumer affects the other. Environments conducive to mammalian herbivory are not necessarily the same as those conducive to fire, although their spheres of influence do overlap-especially in grassy ecosystems which are known for their frequent fires and abundance of large mammalian herbivores. Interactions between fire and herbivory can be competitive, facultative or antagonistic, and we explore this with reference to the potential for alternative ecosystem states. Although fire removes orders of magnitude more biomass than herbivory their methane emissions are very similar, and in the past, herbivores probably emitted more methane than fire. We contrast the type of herbivory and fire in different ecosystems to define 'consumer-realms'.This article is part of the themed issue 'Tropical grassy biomes: linking ecology, human use and conservation'.
Project description:Herbivory and nutrient enrichment are drivers of benthic dynamics of coral reef macroalgae; however, their impact may vary seasonally. In this study we evaluated the effects of herbivore pressure, nutrient availability and potential propagule supply on seasonal recruitment and succession of macroalgal communities on a Florida coral reef. Recruitment tiles, replaced every three months, and succession tiles, kept in the field for nine months, were established in an ongoing factorial nutrient enrichment-herbivore exclusion experiment. The ongoing experiment had already created very different algal communities across the different herbivory and nutrient treatments. We tracked algal recruitment, species richness, and species abundance through time. Our results show seasonal variation in the effect of herbivory and nutrient availability on recruitment of coral reef macroalgae. In the spring, when there was higher macroalgal species richness and abundance of recruits, herbivory appeared to have more control on macroalgal community structure than did nutrients. In contrast, there was no effect of either herbivory or nutrient enrichment on macroalgal communities on recruitment tiles in cooler seasons. The abundance of recruits on tiles was positively correlated with the abundance of algal in the ongoing, established experiment, suggesting that propagule abundance is likely a strong influence on algal recruitment and early succession. Results of the present study suggest that abundant herbivorous fishes control recruitment and succession of macroalgae, particularly in the warm season when macroalgal growth is higher. However, herbivory appears less impactful on algal recruitment and community dynamics in cooler seasons. Ultimately, our data suggest that the timing of coral mortality (e.g., summer vs. winter mortality) and freeing of benthic space may strongly influence the dynamics of algae that colonize open space.
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:Research into plant-mediated indirect interactions between arbuscular mycorrhizal (AM) fungi and insect herbivores has focussed on those between plant shoots and above-ground herbivores, despite the fact that only below-ground herbivores share the same part of the host plant as AM fungi. Using Plantago lanceolata L., we aimed to characterise how early root herbivory by the vine weevil (Otiorhynchus sulcatus F.) affected subsequent colonization by AM fungi (Glomus spp.) and determine how the two affected plant growth and defensive chemistry. We exposed four week old P. lanceolata to root herbivory and AM fungi using a 2×2 factorial design (and quantified subsequent effects on plant biomass and iridoid glycosides (IGs) concentrations. Otiorhynchus sulcatus reduced root growth by c. 64%, whereas plant growth was unaffected by AM fungi. Root herbivory reduced extent of AM fungal colonization (by c. 61%). O. sulcatus did not influence overall IG concentrations, but caused qualitative shifts in root and shoot IGs, specifically increasing the proportion of the more toxic catalpol. These changes may reflect defensive allocation in the plant against further attack. This study demonstrates that very early root herbivory during plant development can shape future patterns of AM fungal colonization and influence defensive allocation in the plant.
Project description:The study of the evolution of floral traits has generally focused on pollination as the primary driver of selection. However, herbivores can also impose selection on floral traits through a variety of mechanisms, including florivory and parasitism. Less well understood is whether floral and inflorescence architecture traits that influence a plant's tolerance to herbivory, such as compensatory regrowth, alter pollinator-mediated selection.Because herbivore damage to Lythrum salicaria meristems typically leads to an increase in the number of inflorescences and the size of the floral display, an experiment was conducted to test whether simulated herbivory (i.e. clipping the developing meristem) could alter the magnitude or direction of pollinator-mediated selection on a suite of floral and inflorescence architecture traits. Using a pollen supplementation protocol, pollen limitation was compared in the presence and absence of meristem damage in order to quantify any interaction between pollinator and herbivore-mediated selection on floral traits.Surprisingly, in spite of an obvious impact on floral display and architecture, with clipped plants producing more inflorescences and more flowers, there was no difference in pollen limitation between clipped and unclipped plants. Correspondingly, there was no evidence that imposing herbivore damage altered pollinator-mediated selection in this system. Rather, the herbivory treatment alone was found to alter direct selection on floral display, with clipped plants experiencing greater selection for earlier flowering and weaker selection for number of inflorescences when compared with unclipped plants.These findings imply that herbivory on its own can drive selection on plant floral traits and inflorescence architecture in this species, even more so than pollinators. Specifically, herbivory can impose selection on floral traits if such traits influence a plant's tolerance to herbivory, such as through the timing of flowering and/or the compensatory regrowth response.
Project description:Despite the importance of herbivory for the structure and functioning of species-rich forests, little is known about how herbivory is affected by tree species richness, and more specifically by random vs. non-random species loss. We assessed herbivore damage and its effects on tree growth in the early stage of a large-scale forest biodiversity experiment in subtropical China that features random and non-random extinction scenarios of tree mixtures numbering between one and 24 species. In contrast to random species loss, the non-random extinction scenarios were based on the tree species' local rarity and specific leaf area - traits that may strongly influence the way herbivory is affected by plant species richness. Herbivory increased with tree species richness across all scenarios and was unaffected by the different species compositions in the random and non-random extinction scenarios. Whereas tree growth rates were positively related to herbivory on plots with smaller trees, growth rates significantly declined with increasing herbivory on plots with larger trees. Our results suggest that the effects of herbivory on growth rates increase from monocultures to the most species-rich plant communities and that negative effects with increasing tree species richness become more pronounced with time as trees grow larger. Synthesis. Our results indicate that key trophic interactions can be quick to become established in forest plantations (i.e. already 2.5 years after tree planting). Stronger herbivory effects on tree growth with increasing tree species richness suggest a potentially important role of herbivory in regulating ecosystem functions and the structural development of species-rich forests from the very start of secondary forest succession. The lack of significant differences between the extinction scenarios, however, contrasts with findings from natural forests of higher successional age, where rarity had negative effects on herbivory. This indicates that the effects of non-random species loss could change with forest succession.
Project description:Herbivory is strongly influenced by different sources of plant variation, from traits such as secondary metabolites to features associated with population- and community-level variation. However, most studies have assessed the influence of these drivers in isolation. We conducted a large-scale study to evaluate the associations between multiple types of plant-based variation and insect leaf herbivory in alder ( Alnus glutinosa) trees sampled in riparian forests throughout northwestern Spain. We assessed the associations between insect leaf herbivory and alder mean production of leaf secondary metabolites (phenolic compounds), variation among neighbouring alder trees in leaf phenolics and community-related features including alder relative size and frequency and tree species phylogenetic diversity. Structural equation modelling indicated that increasing concentrations of alder leaf flavonoids (but not other types of phenolic compounds) and increasing variation in phenolics among neighbouring alders were both significantly negatively associated with herbivory. In addition, increasing relative frequency of alder was positively associated with leaf damage, whereas the size of alders relative to other trees and phylogenetic diversity were not significantly associated with herbivory. These results demonstrate the concurrent and independent influences of different sources of plant-based variation on insect herbivory and argue for further future work simultaneously addressing multiple plant-based bottom-up controls.