Population Ecology

, Volume 52, Issue 4, pp 485–497 | Cite as

Linkages among trait-mediated indirect effects: a new framework for the indirect interaction web

  • Shunsuke Utsumi
  • Yoshino Ando
  • Takeshi Miki
Special Feature: Review Trait-Mediated Indirect Interaction


Plants have diverse ways of responding to damage by herbivores, such as changes in allelochemistry, physiology, morphology, growth, and phenology. These responses form the mechanistic basis for trait-mediated indirect interactions (TMIIs) between organisms on the plants. There is a growing appreciation that such TMIIs form complex networks (i.e., indirect interaction webs) in terrestrial plant-associated arthropod communities. Almost all previous studies have had the same framework: examining trait-mediated indirect effects within a single interactive unit consisting of one initiator of herbivore, a host plant as a mediator, and one receiver [trait-mediated indirect interaction unit (TMIU)]. However, this framework is too simple to understand the dynamics of the indirect interaction web. Recent studies suggest that there is a wide variety of interactions among TMIUs within a community, which may largely affect the outcomes of indirect effects in each unit. Here, we review recent advance in studies of trait-mediated indirect effects in plant-associated arthropod communities and explore the mechanisms of linkages among TMIUs. Then, we argue the importance of examining linkages among TMIUs as a new framework for future studies on the indirect interaction web. Finally, we propose the hypothesis that linkages among TMIUs contribute to the maintenance of biodiversity.


Biodiversity Community structure Complexity Herbivore-induced plant response Plant–insect interaction Plant-mediated indirect effect 



We thank T. Ohgushi, E. Nakajima, and anonymous reviewers for valuable comments on an earlier draft. We also thank O. Kishida, T. Namba, and M. Kondoh for their helpful comments on this study. This study was partly supported by the Global COE program A06 to Kyoto University and a Grant-in-Aid for a Research Fellow of the Japan Society for the Promotion of Science for Young Scientists (no. 22-9260) to S. Utsumi.


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© The Society of Population Ecology and Springer 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of General Systems StudiesUniversity of TokyoTokyoJapan
  2. 2.Department of BiologyUniversity of Eastern FinlandJoensuuFinland
  3. 3.Center for Ecological ResearchKyoto UniversityOtsuJapan
  4. 4.Institute of OceanographyNational Taiwan UniversityTaipeiTaiwan

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