Variation in Plant Response to Herbivory Underscored by Functional Traits.
The effects of herbivory can shape plant communities and evolution. However, the many forms of herbivory costs and the wide variation in herbivory pressure, including across latitudinal gradients, can make predicting the effects of herbivory on different plant species difficult. Functional trait approaches may aid in contextualizing and standardizing the assessment of herbivory impacts. Here we assessed the response of 26 old-field plant species to simulated defoliation in a greenhouse setting by measuring whole plant and leaf level traits in control and treated individuals. Simulated defoliation had no significant effects on any plant traits measured. However, the baseline leaf level traits of healthy plants consistently predicted the log response ratio for these species whole plant response to defoliation. The latitudinal mid-point of species' distributions was also significantly correlated with aboveground biomass and total leaf area responses, with plants with a more northern distribution being more negatively impacted by treatment. These results indicate that even in the absence of significant overall impacts, functional traits may aid in predicting variability in plant responses to defoliation and in identifying the underlying limitations driving those responses.
Reese, AT; Ames, GM; Wright, JP
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