Title Omnipresence of leaf herbivory by invertebrates and leaf infections by fungal pathogens in agriculturally used grassland of the Swiss Alps, but low plant damage
Author/s Fischer M, Weyand A, Rudmann-Maurer K, Stöcklin J
Year 2012
Journal Alpine Botany 122:95-107
Abstract Agriculturally used grasslands in the Alps are characterised by a trade-off between high fodder production in some and high plant species richness in others. In contrast to plant species richness and production, however, little is known on the relevance of biological interactions between plants, invertebrate herbivores, and fungal pathogens for grasslands in the Alps. At the time when the vegetation was fully developed, but prior to agricultural use, we examined whether leaf damage by herbivory and fungal pathogen infection, and their diversity, are affected by plant func- tional group, land use, and altitude. Moreover, we studied whether extent and diversity of leaf damage are related to each other, to plant species richness, and to standing crop. We recorded the leaf area damaged by ten types of her- bivory and five types of fungal pathogen infection on 12,054 plant leaves of legumes, other forbs, and graminoids collected in 215 grassland parcels in 12 valleys in the Swiss Alps. With 83 % of all leaves infested, herbivory and fungal pathogen infection were omnipresent. However, only 2.7 % leaf area was damaged by herbivory and 1.2 % by fungal pathogens. Damage by herbivory was highest on legumes, and damage by fungal pathogens was highest on grami- noids. More leaf damage by herbivory occurred in traditionally mown sites and at lower altitudes, while damage by fungal pathogen infection was independent of land use and altitude. Most types of herbivory were found on legumes and on leaves from fertilised sites, whereas the number of fungal pathogen types was highest on graminoids and in unfertilised sites. Larger standing crop was associ- ated with higher leaf damage and diversity of herbivory types per leaf. Neither damage by herbivory nor by fungal pathogens was correlated with plant species diversity. In more plant species rich parcels, the number of herbivory types was lower at the leaf level, but tended to be higher at the parcel level. Our results highlight the omnipresence of plant–herbivore and plant–pathogen interactions. They suggest that current land use changes from mowing to grazing or to abandonment decrease the diversity of her- bivory, and that fertilisation decreases pathogen diversity. As our results did not reveal conservation conflicts between diversities of plants, herbivores, and fungal pathogens, and as the damage from herbivory and pathogens is generally low, we conclude that for protecting the high diversity of plant–herbivore and plant–pathogen interactions a diverse low-intensity land use should be maintained.
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