Plant Animal Interactions


, Volume 152, Issue 2, pp 287-298

Tree species diversity influences herbivore abundance and damage: meta-analysis of long-term forest experiments

  • Harri VehviläinenAffiliated withSection of Ecology, Department of Biology, University of Turku Email author 
  • , Julia KorichevaAffiliated withSchool of Biological Sciences, Royal Holloway University of London
  • , Kai RuohomäkiAffiliated withSection of Ecology, Department of Biology, University of Turku

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Plant monocultures are commonly believed to be more susceptible to herbivore attacks than stands composed of several plant species. However, few studies have experimentally tested the effects of tree species diversity on herbivory. In this paper, we present a meta-analysis of uniformly collected data on insect herbivore abundance and damage on three tree species (silver birch, black alder and sessile oak) from seven long-term forest diversity experiments in boreal and temperate forest zones. Our aim was to compare the effects of forest diversity on herbivores belonging to different feeding guilds and inhabiting different tree species. At the same time we also examined the variation in herbivore responses due to tree age and sampling period within the season, the effects of experimental design (plot size and planting density) and the stability of herbivore responses over time. Herbivore responses varied significantly both among insect feeding guilds and among host tree species. Among insect feeding guilds, only leaf miner densities were consistently lower and less variable in mixed stands as compared to tree monocultures regardless of the host tree species. The responses of other herbivores to forest diversity depended largely on host tree species. Insect herbivory on birch was significantly lower in mixtures than in birch monocultures, whereas insect herbivory on oak and alder was higher in mixtures than in oak and alder monocultures. The effects of tree species diversity were also more pronounced in older trees, in the earlier part of the season, at larger plots and at lower planting density. Overall our results demonstrate that forest diversity does not generally and uniformly reduce insect herbivory and suggest instead that insect herbivore responses to forest diversity are highly variable and strongly dependent on the host tree species and other stand characteristics as well as on the type of the herbivore.


Associational resistance Associational susceptibility Herbivore guild Long-term forest experiment Plant-insect interactions