Seedling resistance to herbivory as a predictor of relative abundance in a synthesised prairie community

G. S. Burt-Smith, J. P. Grime, D. Tilman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

38 Scopus citations

Abstract

In a laboratory experiment seedlings of 24 perennial herbaceous prairie species were offered to the omnivorous cricket Acheta domestica in an extended feeding trial. Leaf damage was monitored daily allowing an index of palatability to be calculated for each plant species. The index of palatability successfully predicted relative abundance within the same set of species in an independently-conducted study involving community assembly from seed in low-fertility plots. These results support the hypothesis that resistance to herbivory may be an important component of plant fitness in unproductive vegetation. However, the correlation between palatability and community composition may be interpreted as a positive association between traits that lead to high competitive ability and herbivory resistance. There is a need to establish whether the success of the dominant grasses at Cedar Creek arises from their superior ability to capture nitrogen from low external concentrations or is, rather, due to their superior ability to minimise nitrogen loss to herbivores.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)345-353
Number of pages9
JournalOikos
Volume101
Issue number2
DOIs
StatePublished - May 1 2003

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