Main content area

The impact of plant diversity and fertilization on fitness of a generalist grasshopper

Ebeling, Anne, Allan, Eric, Heimann, Juliane, Köhler, Günter, Scherer-Lorenzen, Michael, Vogel, Anja, Weigelt, Alexandra, Weisser, Wolfgang W.
Basic and applied ecology 2013 v.14 no.3 pp. 246-254
Chorthippus parallelus, cages, community structure, ecosystems, egg masses, eutrophication, females, food plants, grasshoppers, grasslands, insect pests, land use, males, nymphs, phytophagous insects, plant communities, rearing, species diversity
In many environments land use intensification is likely to result in a decrease in species richness and in an increase in eutrophication. Although the importance of both factors for higher trophic levels such as insect herbivores is well documented, their impact has rarely been studied in combination. Herbivorous insects have a strong impact on the functioning of ecosystems and it is therefore important to understand how they are affected by eutrophication in high or low diversity environments.We used a grassland biodiversity experiment to investigate the combined effect of fertilization and plant diversity loss on the fitness of the generalist grasshopper Chorthippus parallelus by rearing grasshopper nymphs for four weeks in cages on unfertilized or fertilized (NPK) subplots across a species richness gradient from 1 to 60 plant species. Survival, the number of oothecae, body mass and the number of hatchlings were measured separately for each cage. Plant diversity had no effect on any of the grasshopper fitness measures, neither in unfertilized nor in fertilized plots. NPK-fertilization reduced grasshopper survival but increased body mass of males and reproductive success of the surviving females. Fertilization effects were not mediated by plant community structure, productivity or composition, suggesting that higher food plant quality was one of the main drivers. There was no interaction between plant diversity and fertilization on any of the measures. In conclusion, an increase in eutrophication, in both species-rich and species-poor grasslands, could lead to higher reproductive success and therefore higher abundances of herbivorous insects including insect pests, with fertilization effects dominating plant diversity effects.