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Context-dependent effects of mycorrhizae on herbivore density and parasitism in a tritrophic coastal study system


Daniel C. Moon, Department of Biology, University of North Florida, 1 UNF Drive, Jacksonville, FL 32224, U.S.A. E-mail:


1. Stressful abiotic conditions and mycorrhizal fungi have both been shown to influence plant quality significantly, yet the interactive effects of these factors on relationships among plants, herbivores, and natural enemies remain unclear.

2. In this study, the results of a factorial field experiment are reported in which the effects of plant stress and mycorrhizae on density and parasitism of three herbivores of Baccharis halimifolia L. were examined.

3. Plant stress was increased by adding salt to the soil, and association with mycorrhizal fungi was increased by inoculating plant roots.

4. Inoculation with mycorrhizal fungi resulted in increased density of all three herbivore species, but the effects of mycorrhizae on parasitism varied by species and with soil salinity levels. For the gall maker Neolasioptera lathami Gagne, mycorrhizae decreased parasitism regardless of soil salinity levels. For the leaf miners Amauromyza maculosa Malloch and Liriomyza trifolii Burgess, mycorrhizae effectively negated the decrease in parasitism resulting from increased salinity.

5. The results of this study show that the effects of mycorrhizae on parasitism may be context dependent, and can be positive or negative depending upon species and environmental conditions.