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Bottom-up effects of plant quantity and quality on arthropod diversity across multiple trophic levels in a semi-arid grassland
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Lu XM, Zhao XZ, Tachibana T, Uchida K, Sasaki T, Bai YF*
PubYear : 2022
Volume :   Issue : 
Publication Name : Journal of Ecology
Page number : DOI: 10.1111/1365-2745.13982
Abstract : 

1.  Plant quantity and quality can independently affect the diversity of the entire arthropod communities and multiple arthropod taxa in grassland ecosystems. However, it remains unclear how these effects on arthropod taxa at one trophic level propagate through food web to influence the diversity of higher trophic levels.

2.  We performed a monoculture experiment with 15 herbaceous species in the Inner Mongolian grassland to investigate how natural variations in plant productivity and host leaf traits affect herbivore taxon richness, which, in turn, affects predator taxon richness.

3.  For herbivores, plant productivity indirectly promoted herbivore taxon richness by increasing herbivore biomass, which was attributed to the increases in the richness of dominant sucking herbivores and endophytes with high food requirements. However, the high plant quality indicator (e.g. high leaf protein, phosphorus and water contents, and high leaf protein to carbohydrate ratio) directly increased, whereas the low plant quality indicator (e.g. high leaf lignin content) directly decreased herbivore taxon richness. Taxon richness of chewing and sucking herbivores with specific feeding modes (tearing or sucking mouthparts) showed strong positive responses to increasing plant quality.

4.  For predators, herbivore taxon richness, rather than herbivore biomass, mainly mediated the positive effects of plant productivity and the high plant quality indicator, but the negative effect of the low plant quality indicator, on predator taxon richness. At the feeding guild level, the taxon richness of parasitoids, other predators and spiders exhibited positive responses to different herbivores, which was attributed to their different diet preferences. Predator diversity could be promoted by prey partitioning among predator guilds facilitating species coexistence. At the family level, the taxon richness of most predator families was positively correlated with that of more than one herbivore family, suggesting that high predator diversity may be caused by balanced diets owing to high prey diversity.

5. Synthesis. Natural variations in plant quantity and quality can substantially affect the diversity of herbivores and cascade up the food web to affect predators. Specificity and mechanisms of feeding have a large impact on the responses of arthropod guilds at each trophic level.

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