Omnipresence of leaf herbivory by invertebrates and leaf infection by fungal pathogens in agriculturally used grasslands of the Swiss Alps, but low plant damage

Fischer, M.; Weyand, A.; Rudmann-Maurer, K.; Stöcklin, J. (2012). Omnipresence of leaf herbivory by invertebrates and leaf infection by fungal pathogens in agriculturally used grasslands of the Swiss Alps, but low plant damage. Alpine Botany, 122(2), pp. 95-107. Basel: SP Birkhäuser Verlag Basel 10.1007/s00035-012-0108-x

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Agriculturally used grasslands in the Alps are characterised by a trade-off between high fodder production in some and high plant species richness in others. In contrast to plant species richness and production, however, little is known on the relevance of biological interactions between plants, invertebrate herbivores, and fungal pathogens for grasslands in the Alps. At the time when the vegetation was fully developed, but prior to agricultural use, we examined whether leaf damage by herbivory and fungal pathogen infection, and their diversity, are affected by plant functional group, land use, and altitude. Moreover, we studied whether extent and diversity of leaf damage are related to each other, to plant species richness, and to standing crop. We recorded the leaf area damaged by ten types of herbivory and five types of fungal pathogen infection on 12,054 plant leaves of legumes, other forbs, and graminoids collected in 215 grassland parcels in 12 valleys in the Swiss Alps. With 83 % of all leaves infested, herbivory and fungal pathogen infection were omnipresent. However, only 2.7 % leaf area was damaged by herbivory and 1.2 % by fungal pathogens. Damage by herbivory was highest on legumes, and damage by fungal pathogens was highest on graminoids. More leaf damage by herbivory occurred in traditionally mown sites and at lower altitudes, while damage by fungal pathogen infection was independent of land use and altitude. Most types of herbivory were found on legumes and on leaves from fertilised sites, whereas the number of fungal pathogen types was highest on graminoids and in unfertilised sites. Larger standing crop was associated with higher leaf damage and diversity of herbivory types per leaf. Neither damage by herbivory nor by fungal pathogens was correlated with plant species diversity. In more plant species rich parcels, the number of herbivory types was lower at the leaf level, but tended to be higher at the parcel level. Our results highlight the omnipresence of plant–herbivore and plant–pathogen interactions. They suggest that current land use changes from mowing to grazing or to abandonment decrease the diversity of herbivory, and that fertilisation decreases pathogen diversity. As our results did not reveal conservation conflicts between diversities of plants, herbivores, and fungal pathogens, and as the damage from herbivory and pathogens is generally low, we conclude that for protecting the high diversity of plant–herbivore and plant–pathogen interactions a diverse low-intensity land use should be maintained.

Item Type:

Journal Article (Original Article)

Division/Institute:

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

UniBE Contributor:

Fischer, Markus

Subjects:

500 Science > 570 Life sciences; biology

ISSN:

1664-2201

Publisher:

SP Birkhäuser Verlag Basel

Language:

English

Submitter:

Peter Alfred von Ballmoos-Haas

Date Deposited:

04 Oct 2013 14:41

Last Modified:

22 Oct 2019 19:02

Publisher DOI:

10.1007/s00035-012-0108-x

Web of Science ID:

000310885100004

Uncontrolled Keywords:

Agricultural land use; Biodiversity; Biological interactions; Conservation; Forbs; Fungi; Grasses; Invertebrate herbivores; Legumes; Plant functional groups

BORIS DOI:

10.7892/boris.16954

URI:

https://boris.unibe.ch/id/eprint/16954 (FactScience: 224663)

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