Publication Details

Category Text Publication
Reference Category Journals
DOI 10.1890/14-2125.1
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Title (Primary) Herbivore preference drives plant community composition
Author Kempel, A.; Razanajatovo, M.; Stein, C.; Unsicker, S.; Auge, H.; Weisser, W.W.; Fischer, M.; Prati, D.
Journal Ecology
Year 2015
Department BZF
Volume 96
Issue 11
Page From 2923
Page To 2934
Language englisch
Data and Software links
Keywords herbivore performance; herbivore preference; growth-defense tradeoff; growth-rate hypothesis; leaf traits; generalist herbivores; plant resistance; plant coexistence; biotic factors
UFZ wide themes RU1;

Herbivores are important drivers of plant species coexistence and community assembly. However, detailed mechanistic information on how herbivores affect dominance hierarchies between plant species is scarce. Here, we used data of a multi-site herbivore exclusion experiment in grasslands to assess changes in the cover of 28 plant species in response to aboveground pesticide application. Moreover, we assessed species-specific values of plant defense of these 28 species measured as the performance of a generalist caterpillar, and the preference of the caterpillar and a slug species in no-choice and choice feeding experiments, respectively. We show that more preferred species in the feeding experiments were those that increased in cover after herbivore exclusion in the field, whereas less preferred ones decreased. Herbivore performance and several measured leaf traits were not related to the change in plant cover in the field in response to herbivore removal. Additionally, the generalist slug and the generalist caterpillar preferred and disliked the same plant species, indicating that they perceive the balance between defense and nutritional value similarly. We conclude that the growth-defense tradeoff in grassland species acts via the preference of herbivores and that among-species variation in plant growth and preference to herbivores drives plant community composition.

Persistent UFZ Identifier
Kempel, A., Razanajatovo, M., Stein, C., Unsicker, S., Auge, H., Weisser, W.W., Fischer, M., Prati, D. (2015):
Herbivore preference drives plant community composition
Ecology 96 (11), 2923 - 2934