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Phylogenetic diversity of plants alters the effect of species richness on invertebrate herbivory

Author(s): Russell Dinnage

Journal: PeerJ
ISSN 2167-8359

Volume: 1;
Start page: e93;
Date: 2013;
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Keywords: Cladophage | Ecosystem function | Biodiversity | Community ecology | Old fields | Herbivory | Phylogenetic diversity | Plant-Insect interactions

Long-standing ecological theory proposes that diverse communities of plants should experience a decrease in herbivory. Yet previous empirical examinations of this hypothesis have revealed that plant species richness increases herbivory in just as many systems as it decreases it. In this study, I ask whether more insight into the role of plant diversity in promoting or suppressing herbivory can be gained by incorporating information about the evolutionary history of species in a community. In an old field system in southern Ontario, I surveyed communities of plants and measured levels of leaf damage on 27 species in 38 plots. I calculated a measure of phylogenetic diversity (PSE) that encapsulates information about the amount of evolutionary history represented in each of the plots and looked for a relationship between levels of herbivory and both species richness and phylogenetic diversity using a generalized linear mixed model (GLMM) that could account for variation in herbivory levels between species. I found that species richness was positively associated with herbivore damage at the plot-level, in keeping with the results from several other recent studies on this question. On the other hand, phylogenetic diversity was associated with decreased herbivory. Importantly, there was also an interaction between species richness and phylogenetic diversity, such that plots with the highest levels of herbivory were plots which had many species but only if those species tended to be closely related to one another. I propose that these results are the consequence of interactions with herbivores whose diets are phylogenetically specialized (for which I introduce the term cladophage), and how phylogenetic diversity may alter their realized host ranges. These results suggest that incorporating a phylogenetic perspective can add valuable additional insight into the role of plant diversity in explaining or predicting levels of herbivory at a whole-community scale.
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