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Keywords:

  • Arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi;
  • compensation;
  • Melanoplus bivittatus;
  • microcosm;
  • preference;
  • tallgrass prairie;
  • tolerance

Abstract

Complex relationships occur among plants, mycorrhizal fungi, and herbivores. By altering plant nutrient status, mycorrhizas may alter herbivory or plant tolerance to herbivory via compensatory regrowth. We examined these interactions by assessing grasshopper preference and plant growth and fungal colonization responses to herbivory under mycorrhizal and non-mycorrhizal conditions within tallgrass prairie microcosms. Mycorrhizal symbiosis increased plant regrowth following defoliation, and some strongly mycotrophic plant species showed overcompensation in response to herbivory when they were mycorrhizal. Although grasshoppers spent more time on mycorrhizal plants, herbivory intensity did not differ between mycorrhizal and non-mycorrhizal plants. Aboveground herbivory by grasshoppers significantly increased mycorrhizal fungal colonization of plant roots. Thus mycorrhizas may greatly benefit plants subjected to herbivory by stimulating compensatory growth, and herbivores, in turn, may increase the development of the symbiosis. Our results also indicate strong interspecific differences among tallgrass prairie plant species in their responses to the interaction of aboveground herbivores and mycorrhizal symbionts.