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Micro-fungi and invertebrate herbivores on birch trees: fungal mediated plant–herbivore interactions or responses to host quality?


  • Editor, M. M. Lambrechts

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We studied interactions between microfungi and herbivores sharing a host tree. In a series of experiments and field observations over a 3-year period, we compared phenotypic and genetic correlations of fungal frequencies and performance of invertebrate herbivores growing on mature half-sib progenies of mountain birches (Betula pubescens ssp. czerepanovii) in two environments, a forested river valley and an adjacent higher-elevation mountain birch woodland. We found little support for direct relation between fungal frequencies and performance of herbivore species. Instead, genetic correlations, particularly between autumnal moth (Epirrita autumnata) and rust fungus (Melampsoridium betulinum), suggest that herbivore performance may be caused by (1) genetic differences in plant quality for fungi and herbivores, or (2) genetic differences in responses to environmental conditions.