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Does plant phylogenetic diversity increase invertebrate herbivory in managed grasslands?

Egorov, Eugen, Gossner, Martin M., Meyer, Sebastian T., Weisser, Wolfgang W., Brändle, Martin
Basic and applied ecology 2017 v.20 pp. 40-50
grasslands, herbivores, invertebrates, land use, phylogeny, species diversity, Germany
Plant diversity and land-use intensity have been shown to affect invertebrate herbivory. Several hypotheses predict positive (e.g. associational susceptibility) or negative (e.g. associational resistance) relationships of herbivory with plant species richness. Also, the strength and direction of reported relationships vary greatly between studies leading to the conclusion that relationships either depend on the specific system studied or that other unconsidered factors are more important. Here, we hypothesized that plant phylogenetic diversity is a stronger predictor of invertebrate herbivory than plant species richness because it integrates additional information about the phenotypical and functional composition of communities. We assessed the community-wide invertebrate herbivory, plant species richness and phylogenetic diversity across a range of land-use intensities including a total of 145 managed grasslands in three regions in Germany. Increasing land-use intensity decreased plant species richness and phylogenetic diversity. Plant species richness did not predict invertebrate herbivory. By contrast herbivory moderately increased with increasing plant phylogenetic diversity even after accounting for the effects of region and land use. The strength of direct effects of land-use intensity and indirect effects via altered phylogenetic diversity on herbivory, however, varied among regions. Our results suggest that increasing phylogenetic diversity of plant communities increases invertebrate herbivory probably by providing higher resource diversity. Differences between regions underline the need to account for regional peculiarities when attempting to generalize land-use effects on invertebrate herbivory.