Neighbourhood effects determine plant-herbivore interactions below-ground

Huang, Wei; Zwimpfer, Elias; Hervé, Maxime R.; Bont, Zoe; Erb, Matthias (2018). Neighbourhood effects determine plant-herbivore interactions below-ground. Journal of Ecology, 106(1), pp. 347-356. Blackwell 10.1111/1365-2745.12805

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Plant neighbours can strongly influence the interactions between herbivores and focal plants, for instance by providing food of different quality (consumptive effects) or by changing the behaviour and metabolism of the herbivore and the focal plant without being consumed (non-consumptive effects). Determining the species-specific contributions of consumptive and non-consumptive effects is important to understand the ecophysiological mechanisms which underlie neighbourhood effects.
We quantified the impact of nine different grassland plant species on the interaction between Taraxacum officinale and the root-feeding insect Melolontha melolontha. We investigated the contribution of consumptive and non-consumptive effects to the observed patterns, and evaluated the impact of neighbouring plants on the growth and physiology of T. officinale upon M. melolontha attack.
Melolontha melolontha growth was strongly affected by the presence of different neighbouring species. The three grass species increased larval growth when growing with T. officinale, with Poa pratensis having a synergistic effect in the mixture compared to both monocultures. The forb Centaurea stoebe reduced larval growth when growing with T. officinale or alone. The other five species had no measurable impact on larval performance. Based on these results, P. pratensis and C. stoebe were selected for further experiments.
Diet-mixing experiments showed that P. pratensis increased M. melolontha growth when offered together with T. officinale, while C. stoebe suppressed it. When feeding was restricted to artificial diet, larval growth was not changed by the presence of P. pratensis or C. stoebe. However, when feeding was restricted to T. officinale, larval growth was increased by both heterospecific neighbours. Biomass and primary metabolism of T. officinale under attack by M. melolontha was also altered by the presence of C. stoebe and P. pratensis. Together, these results show that consumptive and non-consumptive effects can explain the positive effect of P. pratensis. In contrast, the negative effect of C. stoebe is likely driven exclusively by intoxication.
Synthesis. The performed experiments suggest that different combinations of consumptive and non-consumptive effects are likely to contribute to the diversity of neighbourhood effects in nature. Furthermore, they show that neighbourhood effects are important factors in below-ground plant–insect interactions.

Item Type:

Journal Article (Original Article)


08 Faculty of Science > Department of Biology > Institute of Plant Sciences (IPS) > Biotic Interactions
08 Faculty of Science > Department of Biology > Institute of Plant Sciences (IPS)

UniBE Contributor:

Huang, Wei; Hervé, Maxime; Bont, Zoe Kalina and Erb, Matthias


500 Science > 580 Plants (Botany)








Peter Alfred von Ballmoos-Haas

Date Deposited:

31 Jan 2018 19:03

Last Modified:

28 Oct 2019 22:14

Publisher DOI:


Uncontrolled Keywords:

associational effect; diet mixing; Melolontha melolontha; neighbouring plant, physiological response, plant–herbivore interactions; plant–plant interactions; root insects; species-specificity; Taraxacum officinale




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