Potential impacts of climate change on patterns of insect herbivory on understorey plant species

a transplant experiment

Sabine S. Nooten*, Lesley Hughes

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

4 Citations (Scopus)


Species-specific responses to climate change will lead to changes in species interactions across multiple trophic levels. Interactions between plants and their insect herbivores, in particular, may become increasingly disrupted if mobile herbivores respond more rapidly to climatic change than their associated host plants. We present a multispecies transplant experiment aimed at assessing potential climatic impacts on patterns of leaf herbivory. Four shrubby understorey plant species were transplanted outside their native range into a climate 2.5°C warmer in annual mean temperature. After 12 months, we assessed the types and amount of herbivore leaf damage, compared with plants transplanted to a control site within their native range. The overall amount of foliage loss to herbivores ranged from approximately 3-10% across species and sites, a range consistent with most estimates of leaf loss in other studies. The most common types of leaf damage were sucking and chewing and this pattern was consistent for all four plant species at all sites. There were no significant differences in levels and patterns of herbivory between control and warm sites for three out of four plant species. This suggests that with moderate climate warming, most herbivory will continue to be dominated by chewers and suckers, and that the overall level of foliage loss will be similar to that experienced presently.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)668-676
Number of pages9
JournalAustral Ecology
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - Sep 2014

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