A simple plant mutation abets a predator-diversity cascade

Northfield, Tobin D., Snyder, William E., Snyder, Gretchen B., and Eigenbrode, Sanford D. (2012) A simple plant mutation abets a predator-diversity cascade. Ecology, 93 (2). pp. 411-420.

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Abstract

Resource consumption often increases with greater consumer biodiversity. This could result either from complementarity among consumers or the inclusion of particular key species, and it is often difficult to differentiate between these two mechanisms. We exploited a simple plant mutation (reduced production of surface waxes) to alter foraging within a community of aphid predators, and thus perhaps shift the nature of resulting predator diversity effects. We found that greater predator species richness dramatically increased prey suppression and plant biomass only on mutant, reduced-wax pea plants (Pisum sativum). On pea plants from a sister line with wild type, waxier plant surfaces, predator species richness did not influence predators' impacts on herbivores or plants. Thus, a change in plant surface structure acted to turn on, or off, the cascading effects of predator diversity. Greater predator richness encouraged higher densities of true predators but did not lead to greater reproduction by a parasitoid, Aphidius ervi; fecundity of each natural enemy species was similar for the two plant types. Behavioral observations indicated that although A. ervi was less likely to forage within species-rich predator communities, low-wax plants mitigated this interference by encouraging generally greater A. ervi foraging and thus high rates of aphid dislodgement (aphids dropped from plants to escape A. ervi, but not the other predators). Thus, only species-rich, low-wax plants simultaneously encouraged strong species-specific effects of A. ervi, and strong complementarity among the other predator species. In summary, our study provides evidence that diversity effects in predator assemblages are sensitive to habitat characteristics. Further, we show that a simple plant morphological trait, controlled by a single gene mutation, can dramatically alter the cascading effects of predator species richness on herbivores and plants.

Item ID: 28140
Item Type: Article (Research - C1)
ISSN: 1939-9170
Keywords: aphid predation; Aphidus ervi; biodiversity; complementarity; pea plants; Pisum sativum; predator; species identity; trophic cascade
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Article available via Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits restricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and sources are credited.

Date Deposited: 22 Jul 2013 04:11
FoR Codes: 06 BIOLOGICAL SCIENCES > 0602 Ecology > 060202 Community Ecology (excl Invasive Species Ecology) @ 100%
SEO Codes: 96 ENVIRONMENT > 9608 Flora, Fauna and Biodiversity > 960804 Farmland, Arable Cropland and Permanent Cropland Flora, Fauna and Biodiversity @ 50%
96 ENVIRONMENT > 9604 Control of Pests, Diseases and Exotic Species > 960403 Control of Animal Pests, Diseases and Exotic Species in Farmland, Arable Cropland and Permanent Cropland @ 50%
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