, Volume 101, Issue 1, pp 3–13

Secondary plant succession: how is it modified by insect herbivory?

  • V. K. Brown
  • A. C. Gange

DOI: 10.1007/BF00031910

Cite this article as:
Brown, V.K. & Gange, A.C. Vegetatio (1992) 101: 3. doi:10.1007/BF00031910


The effects of foliar- and root-feeding insects on the dynamics of an early successional plant community, representing the first four years of colonisation, were examined. Subterranean insect herbivores were found to increase in density with increasing successional age of the plant community. In early succession, chewing insects mainly Coleoptera (Scarabaeidae) and Diptera (Tipulidae) were dominant. This was in direct contrast to the foliar-feeding insects, which were dominated by sap-feeders (mainly Auchenorrhynchan Hemiptera).

Reduction of both foliar- and root-feeding insects with appropriate insecticides had different, but dramatic, consequences for the plant community. Reducing foliar herbivory resulted in large increases in perennial grass growth, with plant species richness being reduced as the grasses outcompeted the forbs. Reducing subterranean herbivory prolonged the persistence of annual forbs, greatly increased perennial forb colonisation and, as a consequence, plant species richness. Foliar-feeding insects thus act to delay succession by slowing grass colonisation. In contrast, root-feeding insects accelerate succession by reducing forb persistence and colonisation. The structure of early successional plant communities is therefore modified by the two modes of herbivory.


Insect herbivoryRoot herbivoreSuccessionPlant species richness

Copyright information

© Kluwer Academic Publishers 1992

Authors and Affiliations

  • V. K. Brown
    • 1
  • A. C. Gange
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of BiologyImperial College at Silwood ParkAscotUK