Main content area

Will like replace like? Linking thermal performance to ecological function across predator and herbivore populations

Rosenblatt, Adam E., Wyatt, Katherine S., Schmitz, Oswald J.
Ecology 2019 v.100 no.4 pp. e02643
Araneae, climate change, ecological function, food chain, grasshoppers, habitats, herbivores, metabolism, survival rate, Connecticut, New Hampshire
The inability of species to adapt to changing climate may cause ecological communities to disassemble and lose ecological functioning. However, theory suggests that communities may be resilient whenever populations within species exhibit variation in thermal plasticity or adaptation whereby thermally tolerant populations replace thermally sensitive ones. But will they maintain the functional roles of the populations being replaced? This study evaluated whether “like replaces like” functionally by measuring how four populations of a grasshopper herbivore and its co‐occurring spider predator cope with environmental warming. The study occurred across a latitudinal gradient bounded by southerly, warmer Connecticut and northerly, cooler New Hampshire, USA. The study compared the survival rates, thermal performance, habitat usage, and food chain interactions of each grasshopper and spider population between its home field site (field of origin) and a Connecticut transplant site, and the native Connecticut population. Three grasshopper populations exhibited physiological plasticity by adjusting metabolic rates. The fourth population selected cooler habitat locations. Spider populations did not alter their metabolism and instead selected cooler habitat locations, thereby altering spatial overlap with their prey and food chain interactions. Grasshopper populations that coped physiologically consumed plants in different ratios than the fourth population and the Connecticut population. Hence, “like may not replace like” whenever populations adapt physiologically to warming.