This work was supported by ECOCHANGE project, contract number. FP6 2006 GOCE 036866); Swiss Science Foundation grant number 31003A-125145 (BIOASSEMBLE project); Swiss Science Foundation Ambizione grant PZ00P3_131956/1.
Shifts in species richness, herbivore specialization, and plant resistance along elevation gradients
Article first published online: 1 JUL 2012
© 2012 The Authors. Ecology and Evolution published by Blackwell Publishing Ltd.
This is an open access article under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial License, which permits use, distribution and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited and is not used for commercial purposes.
Ecology and Evolution
Volume 2, Issue 8, pages 1818–1825, August 2012
How to Cite
Pellissier, L., Fiedler, K., Ndribe, C., Dubuis, A., Pradervand, J.-N., Guisan, A. and Rasmann, S. (2012), Shifts in species richness, herbivore specialization, and plant resistance along elevation gradients. Ecology and Evolution, 2: 1818–1825. doi: 10.1002/ece3.296
- Issue published online: 6 AUG 2012
- Article first published online: 1 JUL 2012
- Manuscript Accepted: 15 MAY 2012
- Manuscript Revised: 14 MAY 2012
- Manuscript Received: 29 APR 2012
- National Science Foundation. Grant Number: 31003A-125145
- National Science Foundation. Grant Number: PZ00P3_131956/1
- Swiss Institute of Bioinformatics
- Diet breadth;
- generalist herbivores;
- host plant;
- phylogenetic ecology;
- plant resistance;
- plant–herbivore interaction;
- specialist herbivores
Environmental gradients have been postulated to generate patterns of diversity and diet specialization, in which more stable environments, such as tropical regions, should promote higher diversity and specialization. Using field sampling and phylogenetic analyses of butterfly fauna over an entire alpine region, we show that butterfly specialization (measured as the mean phylogenetic distance between utilized host plants) decreases at higher elevations, alongside a decreasing gradient of plant diversity. Consistent with current hypotheses on the relationship between biodiversity and the strength of species interactions, we experimentally show that a higher level of generalization at high elevations is associated with lower levels of plant resistance: across 16 pairs of plant species, low-elevation plants were more resistant vis-à-vis their congeneric alpine relatives. Thus, the links between diversity, herbivore diet specialization, and plant resistance along an elevation gradient suggest a causal relationship analogous to that hypothesized along latitudinal gradients.