The influence of species identity and herbivore feeding mode on top-down and bottom-up effects in a salt marsh system
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In this study we investigated the potential importance of species identity and herbivore feeding mode in determining the strengths of top-down and bottom-up effects on phytophagous insect densities. In 1998, we conducted two factorial field experiments in which we manipulated host plant quality and intensity of parasitoid attack on three salt marsh herbivores, the planthoppers Prokelisia marginata and Pissonotus quadripustulatus (Homoptera: Delphacidae), which feed only on Spartina alterniflora and Borrichia frutescens, respectively, and the gall fly Asphondylia borrichiae (Diptera: Cecidomyiidae), which feeds only on B. frutescens. We increased plant quality through addition of nitrogen fertilizer, and decreased parasitism by trapping hymenopteran parasitoids continuously throughout the study. Herbivore densities were censused biweekly. Increasing plant quality through fertilization increased the density of all three herbivores within 2 weeks of treatment application, and higher densities were maintained for the duration of the study. Reduction of top-down pressure had no effect on either planthopper species, possibly because of compensatory mortality affecting the two species. In contrast, reduction of parasitism significantly increased the density of A. borrichiae galls, perhaps because development within gall tissue reduces the sources of compensatory mortality affecting this species. The results of this study show that the bottom-up effects of plant quality were strong and consistent for all three species, but the strength of top-down effects differed between the two feeding guilds. Thus, even for herbivores feeding on the same host plant, conclusions drawn regarding the relative importance of top-down and bottom-up effects may vary depending upon the feeding mode of the herbivore.
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