, Volume 2, Issue 2, pp 87-92
Date: 23 Apr 2008

Seasonality of herbivory and communication between individuals of sagebrush

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Seasonal changes in herbivore numbers and in plant defenses are well known to influence plant–herbivore interactions. Some plant defenses are induced in response to herbivore attack or cues correlated with risk of attack although seasonal variation in these defenses is relatively poorly known. We previously reported that sagebrush becomes more resistant to its herbivores when neighboring plants have been experimentally clipped with scissors. In this study we asked whether herbivory to leaves of sagebrush varied seasonally and whether there was seasonal variation in natural levels of damage when neighbors were clipped. We found that sagebrush accumulated most chewing damage early in the season, soon after the spring flush of new leaves. This damage was caused by generalist grasshoppers, deer, specialist caterpillars, beetles, gall makers, and other less common herbivores. Sagebrush showed no evidence of preferentially abscising leaves that had been experimentally clipped. Experimental clipping by Trirhabda pilosa beetle larvae caused neighbors to accumulate less herbivore damage later that season, similar to results in which clipping was done with scissors. Induced resistance caused by experimentally clipping a neighbor was affected by season; plants with neighbors clipped in May accumulated less damage throughout the season relative to plants with unclipped neighbors or neighbors clipped later in the summer. We found a correlation between seasonal herbivore pressure, damage accumulated by plants, and induced responses to experimentally clipping neighbors. The causal mechanisms responsible for this correlation are unknown although a strong seasonal effect was clear.

Handling Editor: Robert Glinwood