Competition and facilitation in multispecies plant-herbivore systems of productive environments


  • Jef Huisman,

    1. Biological Sciences, Stanford University, Stanford, CA 94305–5020, USA.,
    2. From 1 October 1998 onwards: Laboratory for Microbiology, University of Amsterdam, Nieuwe Achtergracht 127, 1018 WS Amsterdam, The Netherlands.,
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  • Han Olff

    1. Nature Conservation and Plant Ecology Group, Department of Environmental Sciences, Wageningen Agricultural University, Bornse steeg 69, 6708 PD Wageningen, The Netherlands.
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We develop a multispecies plant-herbivore model to explore how plant competition for light and the selectivity of herbivores affect abundance patterns of plants and herbivores along productivity gradients. The model considers a small and a tall plant species, a generalist herbivore, and a selective herbivore. The selective herbivore feeds only on the small plant species. In the absence of the generalist herbivore, the tall plant species becomes increasingly dominant with increasing productivity, and the small plant and its selective herbivore disappear. The model shows that generalist herbivores can facilitate selective herbivores by suppressing competition for light. This favours the small plant species, and thereby the selective herbivores. The model predictions are qualitatively consistent with field studies of multispecies plant-herbivore systems.