High Plant Richness in Prairie Reconstructions Support Diverse Leafhopper Communities


Address correspondence to H. I. Rowe, email hirowe@asu.edu


A primary reason for restoring plant communities is to increase biodiversity to previous levels. It is expected that restoring land with greater plant diversity will increase biodiversity at higher trophic levels, but high diversity seed mixes are expensive. In this study, we used one insect family, leafhoppers (Hemiptera: Cicadellidae) to assess the difference in leafhopper communities that result from establishing high compared with low plant richness restorations. We tested the hypotheses that: (1) the added effort of a high richness restoration leads to measurable increases in both diversity and richness of leafhoppers; and (2) that leafhopper community composition is more similar to remnant prairies in high richness than in low plant richness restorations. We found that higher plant richness led to 3- to 7-fold increases in leafhopper and prairie-dependent leafhopper diversity and richness in restorations. Leafhopper communities in high richness restorations were not more similar to remnant prairies, rather they were distinct among high and low richness restorations and prairie interior. Leafhopper richness and diversity correlated with plant richness, and leafhopper community composition differed among plant community assemblages, but not with the occurrence of single plant species. For our sites, species-rich restorations provided better quality habitat for leafhoppers that was comparable to remnant prairie. Our results suggest that restorations with high plant species richness better support animal food webs.