Subterranean herbivory influences plant density and species diversity in warm temperate forest.
Barone, John*,1, Friend, Alexander2, 1 Columbus State University, Columbus, GA2 North Central Research Station, Houghton, MI
ABSTRACT- The effects of subterranean herbivores on the diversity and structure of plant communities were evaluated in two experiments, one in a pine forest and the other in a bottomland hardwood forest in east central Mississippi, USA. Soil insecticide was applied to plots of natural vegetation, and the stem density and species diversity of understory plants were followed for two years. In the pine forest, the density of herbaceous stems declined significantly on insecticide-treated plots, but by the end of the experiment woody stems were not affected by the treatments. Species richness and diversity did not vary with treatment. In the bottomland hardwood forest experiment, insecticide treatment did not influence the density of either herbaceous or woody stems, but species richness increased on insecticide-treated plots. A drought during the experiments also led to a decline in stem number. Of the seven most common woody species across the two experiments, the insecticide treatment had no effect on the growth of six of them but strongly increased the growth of Carpinus caroliniana. Comparisons with similar studies show that root herbivores influence the density and diversity of plant communities, primarily by reducing the abundance of herbaceous dicots.
Key words: herbivory, nutrient cycling, warm temperate forest
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