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  • 2018-Negative effects of vertebrate on invertebrate herbivores

    Accepted author manuscript, 1 MB, PDF-document

    Embargo ends: 14/11/19

DOI

  • Yu Zhu
    Netherlands Institute of Ecology, Wageningen, The NetherlandsInstitute of Grassland Science and School of Environment, Northeast Normal University
  • Zhiwei Zhong
    Institute of Grassland Science and School of Environment, Northeast Normal UniversityKey Laboratory of Vegetation Ecology, Ministry of Education, Changchun, Jilin 130024
  • Jordi F. Pages
  • Deborah Finke
    University of Missouri, USA
  • Deli Wang
    Institute of Grassland Science and School of Environment, Northeast Normal UniversityKey Laboratory of Vegetation Ecology, Ministry of Education, Changchun, Jilin 130024
  • Quanhui Ma
    Institute of Grassland Science and School of Environment, Northeast Normal UniversityKey Laboratory of Vegetation Ecology, Ministry of Education, Changchun, Jilin 130024
  • Nazim Hassan
    Institute of Grassland Science and School of Environment, Northeast Normal UniversityKey Laboratory of Vegetation Ecology, Ministry of Education, Changchun, Jilin 130024
  • Ling Wang
    Key Laboratory of Vegetation Ecology, Ministry of Education, Changchun, Jilin 130024Institute of Grassland Science and School of Environment, Northeast Normal University
  • Hui Zhu
    Institute of Grassland Science and School of Environment, Northeast Normal University
1. Classic theory holds that the main interaction within the herbivore guild is competition, based on research focused on co-occurring, similarly-sized species that reduce the quantity of shared plant resources. However, plant quality may also be crucial in mediating herbivore interspecific interactions. This is especially true when competition occurs between distantly-related herbivore species, given that small terrestrial herbivores (e.g. insect herbivores) appear to be more sensitive to alterations of plant quality than plant quantity.
2. In this study, we first tested in the field whether large vertebrate herbivores (cattle Bos taurus) exerted a negative effect on smaller insect herbivores (grasshopper Euchorthippus unicolor) through their overlapping foraging preferences for a dominant grass Leymus chinensis. We measured changes in grass quantity, grass quality, and microclimatic conditions in response to vertebrate grazing and conducted additional manipulative studies in the field and the laboratory to identify potential mechanisms underlying the interaction.
3. Our results showed that grazing by large herbivores caused a significant decline in grasshopper population density and individual performance (survival, size and weight of both female and male E. unicolor), despite a 38% increase in grass nitrogen (N) content in grazed plots. Experiments manipulating N levels of L. chinensis in the field and the laboratory confirmed that enriching plant N had a negative effect on grasshopper individual performance and population size. Therefore, enhanced quality (N content) of plant resources appears to be an important driver in mediating the negative effect of vertebrate grazing on grasshoppers.
4. Synthesis. We document that phylogenetic relatedness and trait similarity can be poor predictors of interaction strength in some cases, since distantly related herbivores of disparate size can interact indirectly via changes in plant quality. Counter-intuitively, the observed negative effect of cattle on grasshoppers was mediated, at least in part, by an increase in plant quality in cattle grazed areas. The implication is that light to moderate grazing, a common management strategy, may contribute to suppression of grasshoppers in the Eurasian steppe grassland system by altering plant nutrient supplies.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)901-912
JournalJournal of Ecology
Volume107
Issue number2
Early online date14 Nov 2018
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2019
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