Community consequences of herbivore-induced bottom–up trophic cascades: the importance of resource heterogeneity


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1. Herbivory often changes resource quality for herbivorous insects through induced plant responses depending on the intensity of damage. We hypothesized that the willow’s response following herbivory affects the entire arthropod community structure on the tree due to changes in plant quality. To examine this hypothesis, we investigated arthropod communities on three willow species, Salix gilgiana, Salix eriocarpa and Salix serissaefolia.

2.  In our common garden, cuttings were established in 2003 and experimental treatments were applied in 2005. Damage by a boring caterpillar of a swift moth (Endoclita excrescens) and artificial cutting of 25% stems were applied as partial herbivory within individual trees, and 100% cutting of stems was applied to represent severe herbivory to whole individual trees. These treatments stimulated lateral shoot production depending on damage intensity, resulting in full compensation for biomass loss.

3.  Positive relationships were detected between within-tree variation in foliar nitrogen content and overall abundance/species richness of herbivores. Moth boring and 25% cutting increased herbivore abundance and species richness relative to controls. However, we found no significant differences in herbivore abundance and species richness between 100% cut and control trees. Community composition of herbivore species was significantly different between the following three groups: (i) bored and 25% cut; (ii) 100% cut; and (iii) control trees. Changes in community structure of herbivores were likely due to changes in plant quality depending on the intensity of damage.

4.  Although total predator abundance and species richness were not significantly different among treatments, community composition of predator species was significantly different among treatments.

5.  These results indicate that herbivore-induced willow responses can largely determine the entire arthropod community structure of multitrophic levels due to changes in plant quality. We suggest that heterogeneous resource conditions induced by herbivory within and among plant individuals increase the species diversity of arthropods.