Plant Ecology

, Volume 216, Issue 4, pp 589–597 | Cite as

Effects of mycorrhizal symbiosis on aboveground arthropod herbivory in tallgrass prairie: an in situ experiment

  • A. A. R. KulaEmail author
  • D. C. Hartnett


Plant–herbivore interactions and mycorrhizal symbiosis are important associations in grasslands that may interact due to their relationships with a common host plant and its resources. However, few studies have explored the effect of mycorrhizal symbiosis on plant–herbivore interactions. An understanding of the complex interactions between host plants, mycorrhizal fungi, and insect herbivores is enhanced by in situ examinations of the three parties acting simultaneously. The objective of this study was to quantify the effects of mycorrhizal symbiosis on insect herbivory and the host-plant community in tallgrass prairie. We used long-term mycorrhizal and fungicide-treated plots at Konza Prairie Biological Station (Manhattan, KS) to determine whether insect herbivory is altered by suppression of mycorrhizal fungi. Herbivory on plants in mycorrhizal control plots was greater than in fungicide-treated plots, and for one plant guild, C3 graminoids, the difference was significant. In fungicide-treated plots, plant diversity was significantly greater and herbivory was negatively correlated with plant species diversity. Differences in productivity of plant functional groups due to mycorrhizal symbiosis may be a key factor in patterns of insect herbivory. The results indicate that mycorrhizal symbiosis has diverse consequences, influencing the abundance and the quality of host plants in tallgrass prairie, as well as their responses to consumers.


Arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi Cool season grass Forb Mycorrhizal symbiosis Plant–herbivore interactions Warm-season grass 



We thank Gail W.T. Wilson for logistical support and for quantifying root colonization. This research was partially supported by grants from the National Science Foundation’s Division of Environmental Biology (DEB-9873654) and Long-Term Ecological Research Program (IBN-9632851).


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of ScienceMount St. Mary’s UniversityEmmitsburgUSA
  2. 2.Division of BiologyKansas State UniversityManhattanUSA

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