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Keywords:

  • grubs;
  • heterogeneity;
  • nutrient patches;
  • precision;
  • root foraging behavior;
  • Scarabaeidae

Summary

  • • 
    While plant species respond differently to nutrient patches, the forces that drive this variability have not been extensively examined. In particular, the role of herbivory in modifying plant–resource interactions has been largely overlooked.
  • • 
    We conducted a glasshouse study in which nutrient heterogeneity and root herbivory were manipulated, and used differences in foraging among plant species to predict the influence of root herbivores on these species in competition. We also tracked the influence of neighborhood composition, heterogeneity, and herbivory on whole-pot plant biomass.
  • • 
    When herbivores were added to mixed-species neighborhoods, Eupatorium compositifolium, the most precise forager, was the only plant species to display a reduction in shoot biomass. Neighborhood composition had the greatest influence on whole-pot biomass, followed by nutrient heterogeneity; root herbivory had the smallest influence.
  • • 
    These results suggest that root herbivory is a potential cost of morphological foraging in roots. Root herbivores reduced standing biomass and influenced the relative growth of species in mixed communities, but their effect was not strong enough at the density examined to overwhelm the bottom-up effects of resource distribution.